This development can only mean one thing: The "kill it dead" wing of the House Republican conference has Boehner's plan up against the ropes:
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is delaying the House vote on his plan to cut the deficit, Republican and Democratic sources told National Journal on Thursday. Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office said the vote would still take place later in the evening. A Democratic source said only that Boehner was pushing back the vote. A senior Republican source said the House speaker, who was facing opposition in his caucus, had "delayed" the vote. “The vote will be this evening,” said a spokesman for Cantor’s office.
Independent of how one feels about the relative merits of Boehner's imperfect plan, if it goes down in flames in the House, all of the leverage shifts decidedly to Harry Reid and the Democrats. If Republicans shoot down Boehner's plan with friendly fire, Reid's even-less-perfect plan instantly becomes the only game in town with any real chance of passing. It will have the support of the president, every Democrat, and -- if I had to bet -- at least a handful of Republicans in the Senate. One of three likely scenarios would then play out: (1) Senate Republicans filibuster Reid's bill. Imagine the press meltdown. (2) Republicans allow a vote in the Senate. It passes. Then all eyes turn to the Republican-controlled House, which would be described as the only thing standing in the way of preventing default. If Republicans don't budge, imagine the press meltdown. Imagine it. (3) Some Republicans join with Democrats to pass an even worse version of Reid's bill. Conservatives tear each other apart. The president signs the bill, the debt issue is off the table until safely after his re-election bid, fewer meaningful cuts are enacted, and military funding gets the shaft.
How does that sound to everyone? Am I missing an obvious contingency?
At this point, the likeliest outcome (not preferred, of course) -- in my humble estimation -- is the passage of some iteration of Reid's plan, after GOP input. How much of that input Democrats may feel compelled to adopt could ride on tonight's vote, which is a major leverage point. If Republicans sandbag their own leadership's plan, Reid will have little incentive to give much ground. Hell, he might even demand some concessions. Democrats would have already won the messaging war, and Republican leadership would probably go along with a demonstrably worse plan in order to prevent default -- a clearly stated GOP goal from day one. Ugh.
UPDATE - Rumor has it that Boehner is two votes short. One report I saw fleetingly on twitter suggested that Boehner is preparing to call a vote, regardless of whether he has it sewn up. I doubt that very much. Charles Krauthammer on Fox just suggested that Boehner could persuade some "no" votes to abstain from voting, making it easier to pass the bill. Plus, is another compromise in the offing?
UPDATE III - Krauthammer begs House Republicans to pass the Boehner deal, and former CBO director Douglas Holtz-Eakin is pissed with almost everyone -- Congressional Democrats, the president, and some Republicans. His righteous anger jumps off the screen. My one quibble: What makes him think the Senate "will pass" the Boehner deal? Reid, Inc. have said the opposite on several occasions.
Meanwhile, tempers were flaring on Hannity. Ann Coulter -- a Boehner plan supporter -- got into it with Sean, then Sean and Juan Williams screamed at each other for two full segments. During the Great American Panel, Hugh Hewitt blamed the impasse on Democrats, prompting Democratic pollster Pat Caddell to aggressively jab him in the side. Hugh looked bewildered. (Video HERE. It seemed more intense in real time. Still, it's unusual to see hostile physical contact between political chat show guests):
UPDATE IV: No vote tonight, according to House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy. Apparently Boehner still doesn't have the votes, although there's speculation that a few more "tweaks" may be added to the bill to pick up the handful of yeas needed to push it over the top. Let's see what Republican leadership might have up its sleeve -- and how the markets respond tomorrow morning.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography