Confirmed: Reid didn't have the votes. As Elisabeth notes below, the Senate has blocked cloture on its Majority Leader's debt plan, which was rejected by the House yesterday afternoon. Several Democrats (Ben Nelson, Joe Manchin, Bernie Sanders) crossed the aisle to join Republicans in opposition. Only one Republican, Scott Brown, voted in the affirmative. Once he knew the game was up, Reid also voted "no," a parliamentary move that reserves his right to offer an amended version of the same bill once a bipartisan compromise is forged. The final vote was 50-49. Sixty votes were needed to proceed, so it wasn't even close. Feverish negotiations on said compromise are underway at this hour, as the framework of an agreement has reportedly taken shape. ABC News sketches out its broad strokes:
Congressional leaders have begun briefing their membership on this framework and are gauging reaction. The key question, of course, is whether there is enough support to pass it. And one more detail on this emerging deal: As reported earlier, President Obama would get a debt ceiling increase of up to $2.4 trillion (the final amount tied to the amount of the cuts agreed to). Here's how that would work: The current framework would give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two parts: roughly half of it now and the balance at the end of the year.
Each increase would be subject to a Congressional resolution of disapproval. If Congress voted to disapprove that increase, however, the President could veto their disapproval. This is borrowed from a proposal made a while back by Mitch McConnell. The bottom line is the same: the president would be able to raise the debt ceiling enough to get past the 2012 election.
Jennifer Rubin has more details on the convoluted mechanics of this debt hike two-step, including three built-in contingencies for the second tranche of cuts. The big question is what this deal's program of cuts really looks like. If it's more palatable than Reid's plan (ie, no more yogurt-moon accounting, or deep military cuts), this final proposal could be acceptable to conservatives. It incorporates the attractive political element of McConnell's original plan, but guarantees some form of real cuts. It forces Obama and Democrats to "own" another debt ceiling hike before the election. It does not raise taxes. It achieves cuts -- one way or another -- that exceed the dollar amount of the debt limit increase. And, most importantly, it averts the heavy consequences of default. Again, let's reserve judgment until more specifics are available for public consumption, but this could be a solid political win for conservatives -- to say nothing of the obvious benefits to the country. Several conservative Senators already sound positively disposed to the agreement. Elements of the online Left seem none too pleased.
The Senate is now in recess as details are being hammered out. John Boehner is reportedly back in the room, so the hour of agreement may be nigh. As we wait, I'll leave you with a few words from Sen. Marco Rubio, who's made tellin' it like it is a regular feature of his floor speeches. The guy is an extraordinary communicator and an invaluable asset. At around the 7:40 mark, Sen. John Kerry asks if Rubio will yield for a question. Rubio assents. The resulting interplay is brilliant. The gentleman from Florida just flat-out gets it:
There's so much concentrated awesome in that speech, it's hard to pick out additional highlights (although I'm partial to Rubio's cheeky recitation of "tea party extremist" quotes against raising the debt ceiling -- all of which are revealed to be from Obama, Biden, and Reid, circa 2006-07). Dave Weigel had the tweet of the day on Saturday's Rubio-Kerry colloquy:
@daveweigel - Kerry, who lost to 2004 GOP nominee, in process of losing to 2016 or 2020 nominee
From Dave's fingertips to God's ears.
UPDATE II - Another highlight of the Senate's floor debate was John McCain's terse exchange with Dick Durbin, during which he ripped the Democratic Whip for his party's addiction to "BIOB" -- Blame It On Bush. Durbin looked pissed.
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