Cut, Cap, and Balance Falls Short by 16 (or 23) Votes

The drama played itself out late in the morning. Sen. Jim DeMint marched a gaggle of Republican members of Congress over to the House floor to watch the first – and probably last – Senate vote on Cut, Cap, and Balance. It was a motion to table the bill. Had Republicans mustered 51 “no” votes” to keep the bill alive, they could have proceeded to debate. But they only got 46 votes. That’s 14 fewer than they would need to break a filibuster, and 21 fewer than the supermajority they’d need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment.

I walked out of the vote with Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Jim Jordan, two of the House’s CCB diehards. The two of them discussed the possibility of bringing the bill off the table.

“They didn’t kill it,” said Chaffetz. “They just tabled it. That’s a great sign for us.” So it’s alive? “Clearly. They’re in panic mode.”

Maybe they are, but it doesn’t mean CCB is alive. In order to bring up a tabled bill, there would need to be no other matters pending in the Senate. Democrats control the Senate and can make sure something is pending. If, theoretically, nothing was pending, a senator could get 12 names on a petition to bring the bill up again for a cloture vote. But this bill just fell 14 votes short of cloture.

Some of the more senior members of the House were a little grimmer than Chaffetz and Jordan. Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., talked about this version of CCB in past tense, and focused on the chance of a short-term deal that could buy Congress more time for debate. He acknowledged that if a balanced budget amendment was going to pass, it couldn’t be the version in this bill.

“Personally, I don’t need the 2/3 requirement,” said Cole. “I don’t think we’d lose any votes with a different balanced budget amendment.”