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Boehner backs down

The big question Wednesday: Can John Boehner convince enough Republicans to join Democrats in a vote to avert a major economic crisis?
/ Source: MSNBC TV

The big question Wednesday: Can John Boehner convince enough Republicans to join Democrats in a vote to avert a major economic crisis?

Speaker John Boehner is expected to pass a bipartisan Senate deal that would reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling on Wednesday, averting a financial crisis with just hours to spare. 

In a humiliating turn of events, however, he'll need the overwhelming support of the House's 200 Democrats to do so after suffering a mass revolt from his conservative members the night before. 

Boehner's own plan imploded Tuesday night when warring factions in his conference made a deal impossible. 

In an embarrassing defeat, Boehner scrapped a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, end the shutdown, and secure minor changes to the Affordable Care Act. The proposal was a last-ditch plan by Boehner to exit the current standoff with some shred of dignity before Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal with even more modest Obamacare tweaks. But House conservatives, backed by the influential Heritage Foundation, rebelled and refused to support the measure, decrying it as too weak on the president’s health care law.

That left the Senate to take back the lead. The details are still being worked out between Senate leaders. "We've had a lot of conversations," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday morning. "We're getting closer."

Appearing on Morning Joe, Republican Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin said he believed the Senate plan could pass the House. 

“We couldn’t put a deal together last night, so Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell will work on a deal today, it’ll come to the House. It’ll will pass,” he said. “I think like you said this morning, you will see a lot of Democrats vote for it and you might get a few Republicans, but I don’t think you’ll see a wide swarth of the conservative causus voting for what comes over from the Senate.”

The question now is whether Congress can get the whole process done quickly enough to avoid any more negative effects from the confrontation, which has already halted government services, furloughed workers, boosted the deficit, deflated consumer confidence, and spooked the bond market. Underscoring the urgency, ratings agency Fitch warned it would downgrade the United States' credit rating if it either breached the debt ceiling or governed so dysfunctionally that a breach seemed likely sometime in the future. The Dow Jones opened with a major rally Wednesday in anticipation of a resolution to the current standoff.

One hint of concern is the shutdown strategy's leader, Senator Ted Cruz, who can use procedural obstacles to gum up the works and delay a final deal until after the October 17 deadline. So far he's been quiet as to his intentions. This is partly why the House is expected to advance the Senate bill first, which would allow Majority Leader Harry Reid to skip several steps in the legislative process before holding a final vote. 

But whatever the exact timing, the twin shutdown and debt ceiling are reaching their conclusion. The Conservative Republicans, who provoked the fight in order to defund or substantially delay the Affordable Care Act, will have virtually nothing to show for it.