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Harry Reid Is Preparing To Call John Boehner's Bluff On The Debt Ceiling

Brett LoGiurato
Harry Reid


Monday morning, House Speaker John Boehner's spokesman issued a statement saying the House won't take up a "clean" debt limit increase because it can't pass the Senate.

But what if it can?

A Democratic Senate aide told Business Insider they are going to try, and are formulating a plan to possibly vote on a clean debt limit increase bill later this week.

The aide said that they are confident that all 52 Democrats and both independents in the Senate would vote for a "clean" increase.

They would then need six Republican votes to break a potential filibuster. If Senate Democrats can assemble the votes to raise the debt limit with no strings attached, they would be able to pressure the Republican-led House: Pass a similar increase or take responsibility when the limit is reached on or around Oct. 17.

Details of the plan are slim — such as when a final vote might be taken, as well as the duration and/or dollar amount of the debt-ceiling increase. And as National Review's Robert Costa points out, it's no sure thing that Democrats can convince the usual stable of moderate Republicans they have worked with on issues like immigration and confirmation of Presidential nominations.

During the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations, 43 Republican senators sent a letter to Reid saying they would not support a "clean" debt-ceiling hike. Of the four who didn't sign the letter, only two — Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) —  are still in office. Many Senate Republicans have complained openly about efforts led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to tie the debt ceiling and government shutdown issues to Obamacare, but that hasn't translated into support for bills with no Republican demands attached.

But if Senate Democrats could pass a clean increase, it would put House Republican leadership in the awkward position of likely opposing something that they said a week before was not worth discussing because it couldn't even pass the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Adam Jentleson and Faiz Shakir, two Reid aides, began openly challenging Boehner aide Kevin Smith Monday on whether the House would pass a clean debt-ceiling increase if the Senate does:

.@KG_Smith If we pass a clean debt limit, will @SpeakerBoehner let the House vote on it? And if he commits, will he keep his commitment?

— Adam Jentleson (@AJentleson) October 7, 2013

Will you if we do? RT @KG_Smith: POTUS & his advisers keep calling for a clean debt hike. So when will his party in the Senate pass one?

— Faiz (@fshakir) October 7, 2013

Smith never responded.

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