Wednesday’s New York Times lead story on the debt ceiling standoff by Jennifer Steinhauer and Carl Hulse, “Facing Obstacles, G.O.P. Delays Vote On Plan For Debt – Conservatives Restive – Boehner’s Grip on His Caucus Is Put to the Test in Standoff,” is the second consecutive Times lead overloaded with “conservative” labels, as if only one side of the debate has an ideological motivation.
Yesterday’s tally in the lead story from Hulse and Jackie Calmes was 5-0, conservative-to-liberal labels. Today’s tally was 6-0, including the label in the headline. As that headline also indicates, the Times put the focus and the fault for the impasse squarely on the shoulders of Republican House Speaker Boehner, not President Obama.
House Republican leaders were forced on Tuesday night to delay a vote scheduled on their plan to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, as conservative lawmakers expressed skepticism and Congressional budget officials said the plan did not deliver the promised savings.
The pushback on the bill was the latest chaotic twist in the fiscal fracas on Capitol Hill, as the clock ticked closer to Aug. 2, when the Obama administration has warned that the nation risks defaulting on its bills. The scramble to come up with a plan that could be put to a vote, now moved from Wednesday to Thursday, represents a test of Speaker John A. Boehner’s ability to lead his restive caucus. The expected showdown over the legislation is the culmination of months of efforts by Tea Party-allied freshmen and fellow conservatives to demand a fundamentally smaller government in exchange for raising the federal borrowing limit.
Mr. Boehner rolled out a two-stage plan on Monday that would allow the $14.3 trillion federal debt limit to rise immediately by about $1 trillion in exchange for $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. The plan tied a second increase early next year to the ability of a new bipartisan Congressional committee to produce more reductions.
The plan was met with skepticism -- and in many cases outright rejection -- by several conservative House members who said its savings did not go far enough. President Obama and most Congressional Democrats also have rejected the proposal, saying it is only a short-term solution and could lead to market uncertainty and instability.
Mr. Boehner’s troubles piled up late Tuesday afternoon when the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said his plan would cut spending by $850 billion during the next decade -- about $150 billion less than the $1 trillion increase proposed for the debt ceiling.
Mr. Boehner was forced to quickly retreat from the bill. Republican leaders said they would probably rework it in a way that would reflect the decreased savings by raising the debt limit by less than $850 billion. Such a change would mean that the Obama administration would need to make another request for an increase in a matter of months, making the deal even less palatable to Democrats.
But others argued the opposite case. Four Republican senators with Tea Party links wrote a letter to their House colleagues on Tuesday urging them to vote against the measure. The Club for Growth, which scores members on their fiscally conservative votes, came out against the plan, as did other conservative groups including the Heritage Foundation and a coalition of Tea Party groups around the country.