It's somewhat ironic that the most-partisan of parties in recent in U.S. history, the 2011 House Republican caucus, may very well have to rely on support from the other side of the aisle to pass the 'Gang of Six' debt deal plan aimed at cutting the deficit and averting a U.S. Government default.
Moreover, the pressure will be on House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, once again. But Boehner has done it before.
In April, Boehner was able to attract 81 Democrats to join 179 Republicans to vote for a budget deal that averted a shutdown of the federal government.
Boehner will likely have to try that tack again. The reason? In the House, 38 Republicans have signed a pledge to oppose any debt ceiling increase unless it's accompanied by a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. There won't be a balanced budget amendment now, or at any time in the near future, which means Boehner will likely have to reach out to Democrats again.
The calculation here argues Boehner will be able to attract enough moderate Democrats to give the 'Gang of Six' bill a chance in the House, but that's only Part 1 of Boehner's work.
Can Boehner Contain Cantor?
Part 2 involves keeping the ever-ambitious, continually ideological, and at times craven House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., the de facto head of the Tea Party faction, from trying to undermine the plan simply because it contains liberal ideas as well as conservative ideas.
The $3.7 billion deficit reduction plan contains both elements, including tax changes, that conservatives and liberals will like -- and that's one reason it has attracted strong support in the U.S. Senate. However, a plan with liberal points is, by definition, a compromise, and that's where Cantor's and the Tea Party's response will be intriguing, and perhaps, critical.
Up to now, the Tea Party has opposed any compromise on the issue of revenue increases. But the stakes are vastly higher now: opposing them now essentially puts the nation on a track to default, and all of its negative consequences. Boehner will have to find a way to convince Cantor that a move to defeat the Gang of Six bill would be counter-productive, at minimum, and perhaps disastrous for the Republican Party, and for the nation.
After failing to reach an accord -- and apparently disbanding last week -- the Gang of Six group said Tuesday it's nearing an agreement on a proposal, which could offer an alternate strategy for pushing an increase in the debt limit through Congress before the Aug. 2 deadline. President Barack Obama then added further momentum, by first signaling his approval of the 'Gang of Six' outline, then by reversing a stance on a stop-gap funding measure: now, if Congressional leaders from both parties have agreed in prinicple to a long-term plan, Obama said he was receptive to a short-term debt ceiling increase, so as to allow more time to enable the long-term plan to be successfully negotiated.
We've gone from a Gang of Six to a mob of 50, said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as he emerged from the a Gang of Six meeting Tuesday. The proposal, he said, shows great promise.
I will support it. It is a fair compromise, added U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. This is a way forward where we can do the work that we have come here to do.
According to a copy of a summary of the Gang of Six plan, it would impose $500 billion in deficit cuts, cut security and non-security spending over 10 years with spending caps, make the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs operate more efficiently and abolish the Alternative Minimum Tax.
The tax reform outline would also set up three income tax rates: a bottom rate of 8-12 percent; a middle rate of 14-22 percent and a top rate of 23-29 percent to replace the current system that has a bottom rate of 10 percent, with five additional rates topping out at 35 percent, The Associated Press reported. It would also reduce, but not eliminate, tax breaks on mortgage interest, higher-cost health plans, charitable deductions, retirement saving and tax credits for families and children.
If Congress consents to a plan to raise the $14.3 trillion debt limit by Aug. 2, a government default will be averted.
Political/Public Policy Analysis: To be sure, Speaker Boehner has his hands full, amid the rumble on the right led by Cantor. But again, the argument forwarded here is that Boehner will be able to attract enough moderate Democrats, and maybe 25-30% of House Tea Party members, to get the Gang of Six plan adopted.
With the aformentioned in mind, the risk barometer, on a scale of 0 to 100 percent, of the likelihood of a U.S. Government default, has been lowered to 20 percent Thursday morning, down from 25 percent on Wednesday.