US House of Representatives Approves Debt Ceiling Plan

Posted July 29th, 2011 at 7:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. House of Representatives, ignoring Senate opposition, has approved a revised plan to cut spending and raise the country's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit, in an effort to avoid a debt default next week.

House lawmakers voted 218 to 210 Friday on the plan, which is destined for defeat in the Democratic-majority Senate but could pave the way for a bipartisan compromise to avert a default.

The House plan, put forth by Speaker John Boehner, calls for raising the U.S. borrowing limit in exchange for more than $900 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. It also offers to raise the debt limit again early next year if Washington can work out more spending cuts. Democrats oppose revisiting the debt ceiling issue again so soon because they say it would mean another round of divisive political wrangling, amid presidential and congressional campaigns.

The House proposal also includes tougher requirements on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification, a long-time demand of conservative Republicans who say it is the only way to control spending.

Before Friday's vote, Boehner urged the Senate to pass his bill and bring the U.S. “debt crisis” to an end.

The Senate is expected to vote on a separate plan aimed at enabling the U.S. government to pay its bills and avoid a default. That plan, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, would cut government spending by $2.5 trillion, while raising the legal limit on borrowing enough to fund the government through the end of 2012. It remains to be seen whether the House and Senate can fashion a compromise bill before next week, when the government could default.

The U.S. will run out of money to pay its bills if the country's $14.3 trillion debt limit is not raised by Tuesday .

Earlier Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said it is increasingly urgent that Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on a measure to increase the legal limit on government borrowing, and cut spending. He said the two sides are in rough agreement on how much spending to cut, and on a process to reform taxes and reduce spending on social programs.

President Obama said Reid has put forward a plan that could be the basis for compromise, and added that the Senate's top Republican has offered useful ideas. The president criticized House Republicans for continuing work on Boehner's proposal, which Mr. Obama said could not become law.

Boehner put off a Thursday vote on his measure because he had too few votes to pass it. Republicans later changed elements of the plan to appease members of the conservative Tea Party faction of the Republican Party. The Tea Party says Boehner's plan does not cut enough spending.