The Note: Plan Z: Hoping For The Best, Preparing For The Worst

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter)

It’s come to this: The White House is making tentative plans for a Friday evening briefing on which of the government’s bills will be paid and which will not if come Aug. 2 Democrats and Republicans fail to find common ground on the debt ceiling.

ABC’s Jake Tapper reports this morning that, “Officials are most concerned about paying the interest on the existing debt, since failure to do so would result in default and almost certain immediate market panic, as well as questions about how Treasury would be able to roll over a pre-existing $87 billion in debt that comes due next week. After that -- a list of priorities, not all of which that can be met. Social Security checks? Medicare? Government workers? Pentagon contractors? Troops' salaries? The FBI?”

Such a briefing, Tapper notes, would take place after the markets close (4 p.m.) on Friday.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is preparing today for a vote on Speaker John Boehner’s debt-limit plan after Boehner instructed his members yesterday -- especially those freshman Tea Party holdouts -- to “get your ass in line” behind his bill.

Republican leaders worked furiously yesterday to round up sufficient support within their caucus to pass the plan. The threshold Boehner must meet in the House is 217 votes for passage and he can’t afford for any more than 23 of his fellow GOP members to vote “no.”

If it passes, the real question is where does it go from there? Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has continued to insist that, as written, the Boehner plan is “dead on arrival” once it reaches the Senate. Fifty-one Democrats and two independents co-signed a letter to the Speaker yesterday telling him that they would not support his plan. President Obama has also said he would veto it.

As Tapper reported on “Good Morning America” today, the key to avoiding default on Aug. 2 may be in back-channel negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who have been discussing a backup plan in the likely event that the Boehner bill stalls in the Senate.

In a sign of the delicacy of the negotiations, however, McConell’s aides “vehemently denied that their boss was negotiating any side deal,” according to a report today in The New York Times.

“The fact is,” the Kentucky Republican said on the Senate floor yesterday, “Republicans have offered the only proposal at this point that attempts to get at the root of the problem, and which actually has a chance of getting to the president’s desk.”


BOEHNER’S MOMENT. Just how important is today’s planned debt-limit vote to House Speaker John Boehner? The Hill’s Molly Hooper writes that, “it is, without question, the biggest vote of Boehner’s reign. Some are even speculating that Boehner’s Speakership is on the line. A seasoned House Republican lawmaker, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told The Hill that the vote on Boehner’s proposal is a ‘vote of confidence in the Speaker.’ ‘This is the first time that we’re almost in a parliamentary position in that the president is sort of out of it, and this is now a situation where it’s a vote of confidence in the Speaker and so, if we don’t get it through, John is out of the picture,’ the source said. “

BACHMANN’S NEXT MOVE. The Minnesota congresswoman and presidential candidate is in Washington, DC in between campaign events in Iowa. She will deliver remarks at the National Press Club this afternoon. She has already said she’s opposed to Boehner’s debt plan, arguing at a campaign stop in the Hawkeye State earlier this week that “the premise is wrong.” She emphasized, “This Republican will not vote to raise the debt ceiling,” Bachmann said. “My colleagues will have to come to their own conclusion.” Bachmann plans to take questions after her Press Club speech today. She heads back to Iowa on Saturday for three-days of events ahead of the Aug. 13 Ames Straw Poll.

ON TODAY’S “TOP LINE”: ABC’s Amy Walter and Zach Wolf hear from GOP Sen. Mike Lee of Utah. The Republican Senator wants to attach a balanced budget amendment to any debt-limit deal Also on the program, political consultant Andres Ramirez. Ramirez leads the Nevada Latino Redistricting Coalition, a group that has drawn its own map of Congressional districts in Nevada. Watch “Top Line” LIVE at 12:00 p.m. Eastern.

“TOP LINE” REPLAY: CLUB FOR GROWTH’S CHRIS CHOCOLA. The president of the group that has been one of the biggest critics of Speaker Boehner’s so-called “two step” plan on the debt ceiling –Chocola said his group was, “willing to look at” the “latest iteration of the Boehner plan” and “hope there’s something we can be for,” but reaffirmed the club’s opposition to the bill. “The Boehner plan does not solve our long-term debt crisis,” Chocola said on “Top Line.” He acknowledged that GOP votes on this bill would factor into the scorecards that the Club for Growth creates for each candidate during election cycles.

RICK PERRY WATCH: CALLING ALL DONORS. ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports: Texas Gov. Rick Perry will host a dinner for potential donors in Austin this evening as he weighs whether or not he can draw in the cash necessary to fund a presidential campaign. This marks his second donor dinner of this kind and plans are in the works for two more such dinners next week. He also plans to welcome a delegation from New Hampshire to discuss a presidential run.

Perry, who has not said much about debt debate in Washington, said Wednesday the fears over a potential default are being blown out of proportion. “There’s still gonna be revenues flowing in, so I think this threat that somehow or another the world is going to come to an end and the threat of 'We’re not going to be able to pay our bills' is a bit of a stretch,” Perry told reporters in Houston, according to the Texas Tribune. “Most Americans know this: We’ve spent too much money. We’ve gotten our house in bad shape, and we need to stop spending.”

Yesterday, he also categorized abortion as a states’ rights issue despite being a staunch social conservative who espouses pro-life initiatives. “You either have to believe in the 10th Amendment or you don’t,” Perry said. “You can’t believe in the 10th Amendment for a few issues and then something that doesn’t suit you say we’d rather not have states decide that.”

NOTED: Perry’s 10th Amendment defense on abortion comes on heels of his defense of New York’s decision to allow gay marriage. He's staying committed to his state's rights ideology, but will social conservatives appreciate the consistency?


ROMNEY STEERS CLEAR OF SPECIFICS ON DEBT. “In his first public event in Ohio as a 2012 presidential candidate, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney avoided wading into the federal debt-ceiling debate paralyzing Washington, saying only that he favored an already-rejected House Republican plan,” the Columbus Dispatch’s Joe Hallett and Ben Geier reports from Pataskala, Ohio. “Appearing before about 200 people at Screen Machine Industries yesterday, Romney did not mention the swirling controversy in his 20-minute speech and only fleetingly stated his position after being cornered by reporters. ‘My position is very clear, which is, I favor a 'cut, cap and balance' program for federal spending,’ Romney said, ignoring follow-up questions. His stance apparently comports with a bill favored by the tea party and passed last week by the GOP-controlled House - and killed by the Democratic-dominated Senate - that would require Congress to cut spending, cap future spending, and approve a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Romney focused his remarks on jobs and the economy - meat and potatoes in a presidential battleground state that saw a slight uptick in its unemployment rate, to 8.8 percent, in June. But a recovery plan he outlined was bereft of details.”

TEAM HUNTSMAN FIRES BACK: “Does Mitt Romney think we need a deal on the debt limit before 8/2? Does he share Rick Perry’s view that default is no big deal?” presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s spokesman Tim Miller asked this morning.“How does he feel default would impact American jobs? How can someone be expected to tackle the big issues as President if they hide from the tough issues as a candidate?"

AND FROM THE LEFT… @ billburton716 : Hard to believe Romney could stand up to China when he can't even stand up to the Tea Party. He still has not commented on Boehner plan.

PALIN RETURNING TO IOWA. “Sarah Palin will give a keynote address at an Iowa Tea Party rally on Sept. 3, ABC News has learned. Three separate sources confirmed to ABC News that the former Alaska governor accepted an invitation to keynote a Waukee, Iowa, rally held by the Tea Party of America, an Iowa-based political action committee that was founded in May,” ABC’s Shushannah Walshe and Sheila Marikar report. “The Sept. 3 trip will be Palin’s second visit to the key election state this year. She attended the Pella, Iowa, premiere of the documentary about her, ‘The Undefeated,’ in June. Her keynote speech will fall two days after ‘The Undefeated’ gets released on pay-per-view and video-on-demand. A tea party insider with knowledge of the rally said the timing is not a coincidence: ‘Labor Day weekend is the traditional kick-off to political campaigns, [and] it’s going to be all Sarah all the time.’ The same source pointed out that Palin has ‘sucked the news cycles of three major summer holidays’ because her ‘One Nation’ bus tour launched Memorial Day weekend, ‘The Undefeated’ premiered ahead of July 4 weekend, and this event falls on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend.”

LOBBYISTS SIDELINED IN DEBT TALKS. Sweltering in the heat at his son’s lacrosse tournament, Joseph Stanton sat thumbing through his blackberry -- laptop nearby -- as he tried to track developments in Washington’s debt debate. The chief lobbyist for the National Association of Home Builders started his work on July 24, a Sunday, at 7:30 a.m. and finished about 8 p.m., knowing little more than he did in the morning about whether the housing market would be hit in a deal,” Bloomberg News’ Alison Fitzgerald and Kristin Jensen write. “‘There’s really just mass confusion everywhere, not on Congress’s part, but the rumor mill of the lobbying world,’ said Stanton, 49. Asked how the debt-deal talks compare in terms of their frenetic atmosphere with other debates Stanton’s seen in his two decades of advocating on Capitol Hill, he said: ‘This is in the top one.’ … With President Barack Obama and congressional leaders conducting closely held private meetings in search of an accord, ‘it’s been very difficult to get information from them and into them,’ said Mark Birenbaum, head of the National Independent Laboratory Association. His group is trying to follow the status of a Republican proposal that would require labs to collect a co-payment from Medicare patients. Michael Buckley, communications director at the Alliance for Retired Americans, said his group has opted to save its energy for the post-deal period, when hundreds of billions of dollars in spending cuts tied to the debt ceiling vote are expected to be implemented. ‘There are only a handful of people in this town that are the decision-makers on this now,’ he said.”

NOTED: CALL FOR INTERNS. The Note and the ABC Political Unit are in the market for interns for the Fall of 2011. We require actively enrolled students and we prefer applicants who are spending the semester in DC and can commit a regular 9-5 schedule. E-mail a resume and cover letter to


@ l_whittington : Sharron Angle releases "Statement from a ‘TEA Party Hobbit’" attacking McCain, who campaigned for her in Nevada last year

@ TheBrodyFile : Debt Ceiling Analysis: shld @TeaParty Lawmakers Just Kick the Field Goal?

@ joshgerstein : WH to Issa: No impropriety in Obama fundraising-related events. But WH sends only explanations, not docs he demanded

@ hillballotbox : Herman Cain apologizes to Muslims

@ smkeyes : How Bob Vander Plaats convinced the entire GOP field that Pizza Ranches are a good place to campaign in Iowa is beyond me.


(all times local)

*Michele Bachmann will speak at a National Press Club luncheon.

* Newt Gingrich is a guest of the local Rotary Club in Cartersville, Ga. at noon. Then at 5:30 p.m., Gingrich participates in the Anti-Tax Town Hall and Rally hosted by the Kennesaw State College Republicans and the Conservative Leadership Coalition in Marietta.

* Tim Pawlenty attends a meet-and-greet in Jefferson, Iowa at 8 a.m. At 11 a.m., he drops by a meet-and-greet in Carroll. He appears at the Cherokee meet-and-greet at 2 p.m. At 6 p.m., he attends the Sioux City Town Hall.

* Rick Santorum holds a town hall meeting in Ottumwa, Iowa at 8 a.m. He hosts another in Ft. Madison at 11 a.m. before heading to another town hall in Burlington at 1 p.m. and one in Mt. Pleasant at 3:15 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., Santorum is the featured guest at a house party in Pleasantville as part of his Santorum Family Tour.

* Jon Huntsman gives the keynote speech at the Teddy Roosevelt Dinner in Washington, D.C. at 6:30 p.m.

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