Intense Talks Continue to Avoid Default on US Debt

Posted July 22nd, 2011 at 6:30 am (UTC-5)
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As the deadline for U.S. lawmakers to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit quickly approaches, the Democratic-led U.S. Senate is expected to vote on Republican-backed plan Friday that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for large cuts in the federal budget.

The so-called “Cut, Cap and Balance Act” also requires Congress to approve a constitutional amendment for a balanced federal budget, which must be ratified by state legislatures.

The legislation has passed in the House of Representatives, but the Senate is expected to vote down the proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has denounced the plan as “weak and senseless,” and President Barack Obama has promised to veto the measure.

Mr. Obama will hold a question-and-answer session with students at the nearby University of Maryland Friday to discuss his views on the economy, including his talks with Republican leaders on increasing the borrowing limit and reducing the nation’s massive debt.

The president has agreed with Republicans on cutting trillions of dollars in spending over the next decade in exchange for raising the borrowing limit, but is calling for additional revenue as part of a “balanced” approach. Republican House Speaker John Boehner and other Republicans have rejected Mr. Obama’s demand, saying it would amount to a tax increase.

U.S. news outlets reported Thursday that Mr. Obama and Boehner were on the verge of a major deal, but both sides later rejected the reports as inaccurate.

The president’s Democratic congressional allies became vocally alarmed over reports that he had agreed on a trillions of dollars of spending cuts without the promise of additional revenues. Mr. Obama met with Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday to address their concerns.

Despite the contentious talks, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the administration is “absolutely confident” Congress will move to raise the nation’s borrowing limit by the August 2 deadline, when the government runs out of money to pay its obligations.

The U.S. Treasury Department, the central bank and the White House have all warned a default would have catastrophic consequences for the economy.

Boehner said Thursday defaulting is not an option, saying that would force credit agencies to downgrade the country’s credit rating and force up interest rates on loans and credit cards.