Boehner to rewrite debt-limit bill after CBO score

House Speaker John Boehner will rewrite sections of his debt-limit extension bill in response to the Congressional Budget Office's score that the original plan falls short of its advertised $1 trillion in savings.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel told National Journal what had already been communicated to GOP skeptics in the House and Senate-that the CBO score required Boehner to revamp his up-front and 10-year budget savings to achieve the stated $1 trillion in deficit reduction.

And after National Journal learned that the House Rules Committee will not report out a rule on Tuesday evening on Boehner's bill, postponing a scheduled Wednesday vote on the plan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office announced that the vote will take place on Thursday. The decision throws the fate of the plan in flux, with GOP aides working into the evening in search of additional savings, the sources said.

CBO has yet to score Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's companion bill in the Senate. But because Boehner's vote is first-and the most consequential of his speakership-he has to meet the demands of dozens of skeptical House Republican who want the debt-ceiling bill to represent a credible down payment on deficit relief. For better or worse, at this late hour $1 trillion in savings over 10 years has become necessary for credibility among his colleagues. Boehner and his staff are now scrambling against time to meet that standard.

A GOP source familiar with the options on the table said leaders are considering finding additional deficit-reduction measures or lowering the amount by which Boehner's proposal would increase the debt ceiling, currently at $900 billion, to a number lower than the $850 billion deficit cut projected by CBO. Lowering the debt-ceiling figure would maintain the GOP pledge to enact spending cuts in excess of the debt increase.

Leadership was already facing an uphill battle to find the votes needed to pass the speaker's plan. The CBO report was likely to fuel skepticism among undecided lawmakers, particularly those in the GOP freshman class, that the Boehner proposal was not as far-reaching as they had been told. Boehner sparked doubts among freshmen and other conservatives earlier this year when the spending cuts he negotiated to head off a government shutdown also fell short of their expectations.

Even before the CBO report, leaders spent Tuesday working their conference to find the votes, which appeared out of reach even as Boehner asserted the bill could pass the chamber. House Democratic leaders are simultaneously working to hold their caucus together in opposition to the bill, making it harder for Boehner to get the bill over the finish line on his party's votes alone.

According to CBO, Boehner's plan would cut about $850 billion from federal budget deficits between 2012 and 2021 relative to the March 2011 baseline. Relative to its January baseline-a score Boehner requested be calculated-CBO reported that the bill would reduce deficits by about $1.1 trillion. The bulk of the plan's savings would come from capping discretionary spending.

The adjusted March baseline accounts for reductions in projected spending that had already been enacted through the appropriations process after the January baseline had been prepared. The January baseline largely assumed funding levels that had been continued from the previous year. The March baseline used in the scoring is what Boehner negotiated with the White House earlier this year to reduce spending and head off a shutdown.

To score Boehner's legislation, both the January and the March baselines were adjusted to account for the expected reductions in winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The baseline used by CBO to score Boehner's plan includes the savings already projected for the wind down. Republicans have accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., of inflating the savings in his competing $2.7 trillion plan by using accounting gimmicks that are achieved by the winding down the wars, but Reid's plan has not yet been scored.

Relative to the March baseline, CBO estimates that Boehner's plan would return about $695 billion in savings from discretionary spending, $20 billion from mandatory spending, and $135 billion in savings on interest paid on the public debt due.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.