WASHINGTON, July 29 (UPI) — A plan to join U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s debt reduction bill to a balanced budget amendment won the backing Friday of some key Republicans.
The House was expected to vote on the measure later in the day, The Hill reported. Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said he would vote for it, and the Club for Growth, Grover Norquist’s anti-tax group, gave it some support.
A vote had been expected Thursday on a bill sponsored by Boehner, R-Ohio, to raise the debt ceiling. But Republican leaders in the House did not bring it to the floor, instead spending the evening trying to bring more of their representatives on board. That gave the House another option.
Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., introduced a deficit reduction plan late Thursday that is similar to the one Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., put forward in the upper house.
President Obama, warning “We are almost out of time,” called on congressional leaders Friday to reach agreement to resolve the crisis.
“A lot of crises we can’t predict or avoid. … This isn’t one of those crises,” Obama said in a 6-minute speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House, warning again the deadline is Tuesday for avoiding default on some bills and losing the U.S. triple-A credit rating.
Calls to the House spiked dramatically in the morning after the president urged listeners to get in touch with their representatives and demand action, The Hill said.
Obama said doing nothing actually would result in “a tax increase on everyone” because if the U.S. credit rating takes a hit, interest rates will go up on everything from car and business loans to mortgages and credit card rates.
He said both Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have come up with acceptable solutions that just need minor tweaks to win approval.
Reid said he is ready to move forward.
“No matter how long Republicans delay, the deadline will not move. We have hours — I repeat, hours — to act,” Reid said.
“That is why, by the end of the day today, I must take action on the Senate’s compromise legislation. … This is likely our last chance to save this nation from default.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., have urged members of their party to come to their senses.
Obama urged Democrats and Republicans to find “common ground … that can get support from both parties in the House.”
The president said he’s even willing to accept some sort of “enforcement mechanism” to keep spending under control as debate over a more comprehensive reform package continues in coming months.
“We are almost out of time,” Obama warned.
“The time for compromise is now.”
Two GOP House members from South Carolina — Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney — told reporters Thursday night they were going to a nearby chapel to pray over the matter and for their leadership.
The House impasse appeared to hand the initiative to Reid pushing an alternative version of the debt bill, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Lawmakers who had said they’d oppose the Boehner plan were summoned to the speaker’s office where he tried to persuade them to change their minds, they said.
Most emerged saying they were still “no” votes, the Journal reported.
“He’s asking for my vote. I’m still where I was,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. “The speaker was very respectful.”
Rep. Joe Walsh, R-Ill., said, “I’m still a no.”
Boehner’s plan would immediately raise the debt ceiling $900 billion, accompanied by $917 billion in spending cuts. A special lawmaker committee would then recommend further cuts of $1.8 trillion in the next decade. If the cuts are adopted, the debt ceiling could go up another $1.6 trillion.
Reid wants to raise the debt ceiling at least $2.4 trillion so it wouldn’t have to be raised again until after next year’s election. It would also cut spending $2.2 trillion over 10 years.
Like Boehner’s plan, Reid’s calls for a lawmaker committee to find ways of reaching his deficit-reduction goal.
Senate leaders say Boehner’s bill would be dead on arrival in the Senate even if it did pass the House. They planned to hold an initial vote Saturday on Reid’s plan.
But Reid’s plan also faced a challenge of winning the 60 votes needed to shut down a possible filibuster, some officials said.