House Speaker John Boehner has retooled his bill and submitted it to CBO, and CBO responded by affirming that it would cut the deficit by $917 billion over the next decade, along with setting up a process for another $1.8 trillion through a Catfood Commission II. Boehner didn’t actually do much to get this number, a slight increase from the $850 billion score of the previous bill. Here’s how CBO describes it:

The amendment proposed on July 27, 2011, would modify the legislation proposed on July 25, 2011, by eliminating caps on discretionary outlays for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The amendment also would make minor modifications to the procedures related to further increases in the debt limit.

Compared with the version of the Budget Control Act of 2011 proposed on July 25, CBO estimates that eliminating the outlay caps for 2012 and 2013 (that were contained in that proposal) would lead to outlays that are about $45 billion lower over the 2012-2021 period. (The resulting reduction in debt service costs would increase the total reduction in outlays to about $65 billion over the 10-year period.) CBO had assumed that the outlay caps would effectively set a target for discretionary spending; that target was greater than the outlays that CBO would normally estimate by applying average aggregate rates of spending to the reduction in discretionary budget authority specified for each year. Therefore, without such caps, the effect of the proposed reductions in budget authority would be more pronounced.

That goes pretty deep into wonk-land, but basically we’re talking about changing how the outlays would hit, rather than the budgetary authority. This leads to a $22 billion reduction in spending in fiscal year 2012, compared to… $24 billion, in the Harry Reid plan. So if anything, the changes by Boehner bring it more into line with Reid’s plan, which initially cut more up front than Boehner in the discretionary budget, while spending a bit more in the mandatory budget.

With Boehner’s office hyping the changes and virtually the entire Republican establishment coming aboard for the plan at the last minute, I’d say that Boehner’s plan will sneak through the House tomorrow.

But it will stop there. In a late-in-the-day release, the entire Democratic caucus in the Senate has written a letter to the Speaker saying they will not vote for his plan when it comes to their chamber.

With five days until our nation faces an unprecedented financial crisis, we need to work together to ensure that our nation does not default on our obligations for the first time in our history. We heard that in your caucus you said the Senate will support your bill. We are writing to tell you that we will not support it, and give you the reasons why.

A short-term extension like the one in your bill would put America at risk, along with every family and business in it. Your approach would force us once again to face the threat of default in five or six short months. Every day, another expert warns us that your short-term approach could be nearly as disastrous as a default and would lead to a downgrade in our credit rating. If our credit is downgraded, it would cost us billions of dollars more in interest payments on our existing debt and drive up our deficit. Even more worrisome, a downgrade would spike interest rates, making everything from mortgages, car loans and credit cards more expensive for families and businesses nationwide.

In addition to risking a downgrade and catastrophic default, we are concerned that in five or six months, the House will once again hold the economy captive and refuse to avoid another default unless we accept unbalanced, deep cuts to programs like Medicare and Social Security, without asking anything of the wealthiest Americans.

We now have only five days left to act. The entire world is watching Congress. We need to do the right thing to solve this problem. We must work together to avoid a default the responsible way – not in a way that will do America more harm than good.

The Senate Dems are careful to lay out really the only objection, the only actual difference, between the Reid and Boehner bills: one raises the debt limit by $2.7 trillion up front, and the other only raises it by $1 trillion. That’s it. Boehner’s plan can’t pass the Senate and has drawn a veto threat. Reid’s plan can probably get a majority in the Senate, but might not be able to clear a filibuster. In the House, it would probably get a lot of Democratic support, but Boehner wouldn’t bring it to the floor in its current form.

We are literally on the verge of running out of cash at the Treasury over a timing issue on increasing the debt limit.

Ladies and gentlemen, your 112th Congress.

…House Democrats, meanwhile, are uniting around a clean bill, which has over 100 co-sponsors, and is rising. But that’s so deeply unserious!

…I think Ezra gets the numbers wrong here, I thought the payroll tax cut was only about $120 billion, not $160 billion (confirmed, it was $112B). But he’s right that, under the Boehner plan, fiscal policy would contract by at least $200 billion (and $250 billion if his numbers are right) in 2012. According to the IMF, that would lead to a reduction of 0.5% of GDP and an increase of 0.3% in unemployment. And it’s the same for the Reid plan.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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