Schieffer: We're behind Square One, in a hole

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, walks through a basement corridor in the Capitol in Washington Wednesday.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer said the failure Thursday of the House leadership to even manage a vote on its own deficit reduction bill showed how fractured the party is - and is a portent of trouble for House Speaker John Boehner.

"About 10 minutes before the vote was to start, they pulled the bill down. They said we've got to go back into conference - which means they didn't have the [votes]," Schieffer said on "The Early Show."

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"I mean, this is enormously embarrassing for the speaker, when he can't bring his own people along. It almost raises the question: Is he going to be able to survive this?"

The failure of House Republicans to get behind a bill of its own, after months of acrimonious debate between the two parties over how to address the nation's debt and the looming deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling, indicates that no progress has been made.

"If Republicans can't pass THEIR version of a bill, what do you think they're going to do when a Democratic version of the bill gets there?" Schieffer asked. "We're not back to Square One; we're back BEHIND Square One, in a hole. BELOW Square One."

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"Early Show" anchor Chris Wragge suggested that there are factions of the GOP who are making Boehner look foolish by withholding their support.

And they're "not embarrassed to do that," added Schieffer. "That's the part I don't know if he can survive or not, but this is a real setback for him and a real setback for the leadership."

When asked by anchor Erica Hill how important the freshman class of Republican House Members (many of whom are affiliated with the Tea Party) is to the current division within the GOP, Schieffer said, "That's absolutely right, Erica. But what they're telling me is that this goes beyond the Tea Party. There are some old line conservatives that just want more than the leaders have been willing to get them. They want deeper spending cuts.

"The reason that wasn't in this bill is the leadership knew they couldn't pass anything. They thought this was the best they can do, and even this is not good enough.

"It's not the leaders - the leaders are ready to deal," said Schieffer. "It's the followers, and they can't get anybody to follow them.

"So it's just a mess; there's no other way to get around it," said Schieffer.

"Larry Summers who was on our program about two weeks ago compared not meeting this [debt ceiling] deadline to financial Armageddon,' said Wragge. "Are members of the Republican Party, are they willing to sit back and allow it to happen? It affects the American people - they're seeing their 401(k)s and personal wealth dwindle."

"One would hope not, but here we are," said Schieffer. "I mean, there's no question now, that's where we're headed. And as you just said, Chris, we see what the markets have done already. We're in uncharted territory right now, and that's the dangerous part about all this."