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Special Report

Did Boehner 'Stick His Neck Out'?

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," July 29, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: This is the Fox News alert. We'll take you live to the House floor where the vote on the final bill. This i s the final passage of now the third iteration of Speaker Boehner's bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending. There you see the yay and nay, 193-191. This is a 15-minute vote. We have about 10 minutes left with that. We'll keep this up as the vote tally continues.

Let's bring in our pa nel -- Steve Hayes, senior writer for the Weekly Standard, Karen Tumulty, national political correspondent for the Washington Post, David Drucker, reporter for Roll Call and syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer.

David, you were over there all day. This seems to be that they're going to bring this thing if they have the votes, and it seems he has the votes. What's the inside skinny?

DAVID DRUCKER, ROLL CALL: Well, adding a balanced budget component really seemed to --

BAIER: Balanced budget amendment added to this new version.

DRUCKER: Correct. And so, some of the debt limit increase would be tied to actual passage in Congress to the balanced budget amendment. Some members were calling this cut, cap, balance light. And I think that the second revised version and all of the wrangling combined was able to get it done. Now, I think everybody knows that this is going nowhere in the Senate. It will get over there later tonight. It'll die, and --

BAIER: Let me just interrupt you. As people are looking at the screen, 214 is the magic number. We're now at 200-195. Now, once you get to 200, it's not a final done deal until the gavel comes down and this vote is done. Sometimes, actually, lawmakers change their votes, and the vote changes, but 214 is the magic number tonight. Go ahead. Sorry.

DRUCKER: That's OK. So, they're going to finally get this done, which I think is important for the speaker's leadership, even though, in some sense it's viewed as a defeat because of where he started at the beginning of the week and where he ended up, but at least, he didn't hold a vote that failed. Then, it goes to the Senate. And now, what happens is actually a very open question.

BAIER: Karen, thoughts on today?

KAREN TUMULTY, WASHINGTON POST: Well, I was struck that the speaker's final speech was as passionate as I think I've ever seen him, but there was one line in it where he kept saying, a lot of people in this town can never say yes. He was referring, of course, to the administration and the Democrats, but I think that could have applied just as easily to his own caucus.

BAIER: Right. He was referring, Steve, to his negotiations with the president, saying numerous times that he stuck his neck out, that he stuck his neck out, actually put revenues on the table. Now, he's saying this to a caucus which is adamantly opposed to any revenue increases, and he knows that he's going to have to take a bill that comes over from the Senate as we're a 204 right now. He's going to have to pass that bill through a House that does not want what probably Senator Reid is going to give them.

STEVE HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Right. And I think he's saying this in part as a defense of the House Republican caucus who's gotten bludgeoned in the media for, you know, its intransigence, over the past few days. But I mean, you know, John Boehner, he's been criticized within his own conference as somebody who is too willing to work on a deal with President Obama.

I think there are people among the House Republicans who thought Boehner spent too much time dealing with a man who was fundamentally never going to agree to reform entitlements and do the kind of spending cuts that needed to get done without revenue increases. So, I think Boehner was in that sense a little bit defensive of himself and of the process that he's been through, but also in a broader sense of his caucus.

BAIER: You and I were talking about last night how these numbers were coming together -- we're at 207 yay right now. 214 again is the magic number. Behind the scenes what you were getting and the arm-twisting. Tell us a little bit about that.

HAYES: Yes. It was a very interesting process last night. I mean, you talked to people, and they would tell you two votes. I talked to three people and they looked (ph) that republicans are just two votes short in the House. And then you talk to other people and they'd say, no, no. It's many more than that. It's 5. It's 15. And it was a moving target, I think, for most of the night.

In fact, I think there were times at which people, even in leadership, didn't actually have a good sense of where exactly the vote count was, but everybody understood that they didn't have the votes last night.

BAIER: Which is why they yanked it all to the floor. Charles your thoughts, as we're 208 now, on this day, and what this means for Speaker Boehner and his speakership?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think his speech was extremely interesting because I think he was playing one or two chess moves ahead of the game. He no longer had to be addressing the recalcitrant in his caucus. He knew he had the votes. That speech was the speech that he would make to the country when the Senate sits on a tank. We know the president doesn't have a plan. The Senate has in theory a Reid plan, but it's not a Senate plan.

I think it's really important that the Republicans emphasize today it's no longer a Boehner plan. It's a House of Representatives. This is actually something that passed in one House of the Congress. So, that's the live action. And I think the idea is to put the onus on the Senate where nothing has happened. Everything is killed in the Senate. It's a place where all bills that would solve this go to die.

And the white house, where the president even today talking about the second stage of this process on debt ceiling said that the second stage will be discussions on entitlements and tax reform, I'm willing to have a discussion. This man is still back in discussions, which he offered -- I don't know -- a year ago. But he discusses, he gives speeches. Nothing is cord, nothing is estimated. He has nothing in a plan in public.

No cuts. Nothing. I think if he emphasis on the House is acted, the Senate and the presidency would turn, the hands of Democrats haven't (ph), that's a winning argument.

BAIER: We're under six minutes for the rest of this vote. We're at 211 yay, 203 no. Again, the magic number for passage is 214. And again, it's not official until the gavel comes down. Karen, the PR effort, it seems that the Democrats had a successful effort in painting the tea party conservatives as being, somehow, evil, recalcitrant, the problem, extremist. The president mentioned it today again. How has that gone? And, will this turn that narrative around at all?

TUMULTY: Well, it's interesting. First of all, tracking polls are not -- are vary. They go up and down and up and down. But today, the president hit 40 percent approval in the Gallup tracking poll, which is the lowest he has been. The fact is, Charles talks about the argument that they have now, I think the country is to the point where people don't want to hear an argument, they want to hear a plan. And, time has basically run out.

BAIER: David, we're at 213, one away from the number they need. Your thoughts on this discussion here?

DRUCKER: Well, I think the interesting thing is that whatever you think about the Republicans' plans in the House, they actually passed two bills. And, as we've gone down to the wire here, we're bumping up against the Tuesday deadline to raise the debt limit, I thought this was a great process if it would have started six to eight weeks ago, and you could have had the House pushing through its plans.

I mean, don't forget the speaker -- again, whatever you think of his plan, when it was clear that cut, cap, balance was dead, he went back and tried to come up in something that in theory at least could appeal to Democrats or at least say, all right, I dialed it back a little bit. And if the Senate would have moved, and then the house would have after the House, and we were four weeks ago, we would have made even in business for a legislative solution on time.

BAIER: Currently, at passage, 214-204. Four minutes left. If these numbers hold, and it looks like they will, this will pass the house. Charles, your thoughts?

KRAUTHAMMER: I would agree that it would have been much better had the House passed this a month ago, but, right now, what the Republicans can say is the House legislates, the president talks, and the Senate kills. Who's responsible here? Who's acting as an adult?

BAIER: It's important to note that any lawmaker could change their votes, but we're at the magic number right now, 214. Steve, when you talk about the tea party conservatives, they, you know, strategists will tell you that they have an argument that this linkage between the debt ceiling increase and any spending cuts would not have happened had they not been elected. So, any of this concern or talk about this focus on the debt or reducing the size of government would not be happening if it was not for November 2010.

HAYES: There's absolutely no question about that, and I think they deserve a tremendous amount of credit for changing the conversation. I mean, we've heard this in some of the floor speeches over the past couple of days where you look back at January and February of 2009, what Washington was focused on at that point was how much money can we spend and how fast can we spend it?

And you fast-forward to January 2011 after the historical change in November of 2010, and because largely of the tea party conservatives, you have changed the conversation, so that the conversation, including the president is, how much can we cut and how quickly can we cut it? I mean, that is a dramatic change. Now, I would argue that, in tactics, tea party conservatives made a mistake, and they made a mistake by not changing after cut, cap, and balance went down.

I think it was the best program plan of substance to be offered, but they made a mistake by not going to the speaker at that point and saying, what can we do to pass the most aggressive, the most conservative plan that we have in the House that could possibly pass the Senate? I Think John Boehner, at the same time, had made a mistake earlier by spending too much time with the president and not spending enough time with those -- that group in the House.

BAIER: But Karen, because we're pushed up against this deadline that the treasury department says, if we miss, we go over it. It's a financial calamity. That was a powerful anvil that Democrats used, hammering down.

TUMULTY: It was not just the treasury that was saying that as well.

BAIER: I mean, Wall Street, all kinds.

TUMULTY: Exactly. But I do think that, yes, they have changed -- the tea party has changed the conversation, but I think that for a lot of those people tonight, changing the conversation does not feel like a victory. And certainly, we saw people as recently as yesterday. Sarah Palin sending out her Facebook posting saying, hang tough, and don't forget there are people out there who are willing to challenge you in a primary. So, this is -- this is a pretty purist group of people.

KRAUTHAMMER: But there's a paradox here, because the essence of the philosophy of these new conservatives, the ones who shifted the conversation, is a return to a kind of constitutionalism, and extremely admirable philosophy, meaning smaller government, limited -- less intrusiveness, less regulation, sort of a return to the original idea of America, but the original structure of America is the separation of powers.

Conservatives -- Republicans control one House, only one House, half of one branch. The idea that you could revolutionize America in controlling one branch is impossible under a structure, under the Constitution of limited and separated powers. They have to recognize that. They have scored a tremendous success here. Take the money and run.

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