Reid throws support to debt deal

If the debt-reduction deal is going to pass, it’s going to need the support of congressional leaders. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears to be on board, which makes sense, given that he helped negotiate the terms with the White House.

About an hour ago, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced his support, pending approval from his caucus, which has not yet been briefed on all of the details.

As for what they’re likely to hear, Brian Beutler has a helpful report walking though the framework.

It guarantees the debt limit will be hiked by $2.4 trillion. Immediately upon enactment of the plan, the Treasury will be granted $400 billion of new borrowing authority, after which President Obama will be allowed to extend the debt limit by $500 billion, subject to a vote of disapproval by Congress.

That initial $900 billion will be paired with $900 billion of discretionary spending cuts, first identified in a weeks-old bipartisan working group led by Vice President Joe Biden, which will be spread out over 10 years.

Obama will later be able to raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion, again subject to a vote of disapproval by Congress.

That will be paired with the formation of a Congressional committee tasked with reducing deficits by a minimum of $1.2 trillion. That reduction can come from spending cuts, tax increases or a mixture thereof.

And that’s where it starts to get a lot more complicated. This bipartisan panel — some have been calling it a “Super Congress” — would be tasked with tackling tax and entitlement “reform,” with the goal of saving $1.2 trillion. Democrats will fight to ensure some of that total includes new revenue; Republicans will fight for the opposite.

If this commission fails to reach an agreement, a “trigger” kicks in: $1.5 trillion in cuts. The idea is to create an incentive for lawmakers on the bipartisan panel to succeed, since they won’t like the triggered consequences. In this case, half of the $1.5 trillion in cuts would come from defense (presumably a goal Republicans would want to avoid), while the other half would come from domestic spending (which Dems would want to prevent).

But even within this trigger are some restrictions: Medicaid and Social Security would be walled off and protected, and while the domestic cuts could affect Medicare, the cuts would be limited to Medicare providers, not beneficiaries.

Speaker Boehner has not yet endorsed the framework — he’s been unusually quiet all day — and is rumored to want to change the trigger to make it easier on Republicans. He wants Democrats to have more of an incentive to deal on the bipartisan panel, without GOP members having to worry about failure.

He may not fully understand triggers at a conceptual level.

In any case, while the blueprint makes the rounds, I’d hesitate in making too many assumptions about its chances. If Reid and McConnell are both on board, the plan will probably get the necessary support to clear the upper chamber, and the Democratic leadership is eyeing a vote as early as tonight, though, as is always the case, the schedule is subject to change.

The House is a very different animal. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has received an extensive briefing on the plan, but has not yet expressed her approval, and plans to meet with her caucus in the morning. She will hear considerable opposition from many of her members — most notably from the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Black Caucus — and Pelosi has also hinted strongly that Democratic support may be minimal*.

And then, of course, one never knows what House Republicans, dominated by a significant Suicide Squad, might say in response to this. They’re unlikely to approve, despite all of the Democratic concessions, and if there are enough conservative and liberal opponents, the deal may very well not have the votes to pass the House.

The deadline, for those keeping track, is 53 hours away.

* Edited slightly for clarity.