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'Known unknowns' of Boehner's debt plan

From msnbc.com's Tom Curry: 
Here are some of the “known unknowns” in the competing deficit reduction plan being offered by House Speaker John Boehner, set for a vote in that chamber tomorrow.

On Monday night President Barack Obama endorsed the competing proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry and on Tuesday he had the White House issue a “Statement of Administration Policy” Tuesday indicating he would veto the Boehner plan if Congress passes it.

How many House Republicans will vote for Boehner’s proposal? And how many Democrats will vote for it?
It’s too soon for a vote tally, but some GOP fiscal conservatives are opposing it.

“I am confident as of this morning that there are not 218 Republicans in support of the plan,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R- Ohio, the head the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of 175 GOP House conservatives, on Tuesday.

A prominent House GOP freshman, Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois, said on MSNBC Tuesday he’d vote against Boehner’s plan.

But less TV-friendly GOP members have yet to be heard from, and many may not be until the roll call vote.

There are 240 Republicans in the House; with two vacancies, Boehner would need 217 votes to pass his bill. He and the GOP whip team will be working to persuade members that the plan is the only way for Republicans to get significant spending cuts signed into law, or at least the best vehicle to strengthen their hand in any eleventh-hour bargaining with Obama.

As for Democrats, there might be a handful from Republican-leaning districts who’ll end up voting for the plan, but they’re likely to lie low until the vote.

Which outside groups and power brokers have announced opposition to the Boehner proposal and which have come out for it?
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business lobbying group which helped Republicans win their House majority in 2010, issued a statement Tuesday urging House members to vote for Boehner’s plan. “This legislation is critical. Default on debt obligations is not an acceptable option. The time for Congress to act is now,” the chamber’s chief political strategist Bruce Josten wrote to House members.

Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform also gave his backing to the plan.

Against the plan are the fiscally hawkish Club for Growth, which helped elect several GOP House members and senators in 2010 – which said Boehner’s plan “cuts almost nothing immediately” and  “caps only discretionary spending.”

In the Senate, Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he opposed the Boehner plan because it would cut too little. “If the Boehner plan worked perfectly, it would only reduce spending by $3 trillion,” he said. “During that same timeframe the United States will add at least another $6-7 trillion in new debt.”

Also opposed are liberal-leaning groups such as the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which said Boehner’s plan would require “draconian” cuts in spending on programs for low-income people and those over age 65.

How would the Boehner plan enforce its $1.2 trillion in proposed cuts to discretionary (non-entitlement) spending?
It would enforce the spending limit through what’s called “sequestration,” automatic across-the-board reductions. The mechanism would be similar to that used, with some success, in the 1985 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings law.

Under the Boehner plan, what’s the job of the new ‘super committee’ on cutting other spending, such as on entitlement programs such as Medicare? And who’ll pick its members?
Boehner’s bill says the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction would have the goal of reducing deficits by $1.8 trillion between 2012 and 2021 (on top of the $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending).

The committee would be comprised of 12 members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the Speaker and minority leader of the House, with each appointing three members. The committee would be required to report a plan by Nov. 23, 2011 so that Congress would vote on it by Dec. 23, 2011. The plan would be debated and voted on under special expedited rules.

How will the super-committee’s jurisdiction overlap with that of the committees – such as the Senate Finance Committee – which have authority over programs such as Social Security and Medicare?
From the text of the bill and the GOP leadership’s explanation of it, that’s not clear.

The bill says the new committee’s job would be “to provide recommendations and legislative language,” but it seems that the existing committees, such as the Senate Finance Committee would still retain the power to decide exactly how to reduce spending and to attempt to reach the $1.8 trillion target for cuts in mandatory spending.

Boehner is setting goals, not telling the Congress how to reach those goals.