The House Rules Committee has prepped the debt bill of Speaker John Boehner for debate Thursday in what hopes to be the start of the final votes needed to reach a compromise ahead the Aug. 2 deadline.
The Rules Committee dictates how the bill will be handled on the floor. Most rules must lay over for one night before the full House can consider it. If the House, for some reason, fails to approve the rule, it cannot consider the bill.
The rule vote on this bill could prove interesting today, as the vote on the actual legislation is expected to be close. It's what's called a "closed" rule, meaning they didn't allow any amendments to be in order.
There will be two hours of debate on the bill. Some of the time will be subdivided between the chairs and ranking members of the Ways and Means Committees and Budget panels.
There is a unique quirk in this rule. It allows the House to bring up "suspension" bills anytime between now and Sunday. That is rare. Suspension bills are pieces of legislation which don't need a "rule" to go to the floor. However, these bills get limited debate time -- 40 minutes -- and need a two-thirds vote to pass.
However, this rule grants the House a unique option of being able to bring up a balanced budget amendment as a suspension sometime in the next few days. Unlike most suspension bills, it will allow for two hours of debate.
Constitutional amendments need a two-thirds vote to pass, the same as what a suspension bill would require.
As of Thursday morning, there is no concrete guidance as to when the House would consider a balanced budget amendment.
Also, here is a general timeline, actually very general and subject to change, to how the day may play out.
The House meets at 12 noon ET for business.
One minute speeches run until 12:30 or so.
They then begin one hour of debate on the "rule" for the Boehner bill. At this point it is not correct to say they are debating the actual bill, but they are considering the issue. This debate is typically pretty feisty.
Expect this to run until 1:30p ET to 1:45 once factoring in "injury and booking time" like in soccer.
Around that point, anticipate a vote series which would take them until 2:30 or 2:45 pm ET. Maybe later.
Remember to watch the rule. If the vote on the bill is expected to be close, the vote on the rule could be even more perilous. If the rule loses, they cannot even call the Boehner bill up for debate. They would be stuck.
If the House approves the rule, they then move onto the two hours of general debate. Again, if they don't get to that until 2:45, that will take the vote series well past 4p ET when the markets close (thus eliminating the chance for a Dow meltdown ala the first TARP vote in September, 2008). With slippage time, this gets us to 5 or 5:15.
The House then has a short debate on a procedural matter related to the bill which takes us close to 5:30 or 5:45. Then the vote sequence starts.
Expect the House to start sometime after 6 pm and begin the final passage vote sometime around 6:15 to 6:30, meaning the final outcome on the Boehner bill would be known shortly before 7p ET.
Again, this is predicated on how long the vote sequences are. It will be hard to get more concrete times until early afternoon. And it is very likely to change.
Also, if the House elects to finish other business first, the debate and outcome of the Boehner bill could be time-shifted until 8 or so.