US Lawmakers Continue Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Posted July 31st, 2011 at 12:35 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. lawmakers are continuing their political wrangling behind closed doors to reach an agreement on a debt limit proposal.

The U.S. Senate vote on the debt ceiling, originally slated to take place early Sunday morning, has been pushed back to Sunday afternoon.

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid said late Saturday the White House had asked him to give everyone as much time as possible to reach an agreement, amid signs there was progress in negotiations.

U.S. political leaders have until Tuesday to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling or risk triggering the first debt default in U.S. history. But they remain deadlocked on how best to raise the borrowing limit and cut government spending.

Republicans are calling for a short-term fix and new consideration of the debt ceiling in early 2012, while Democrats are pushing for a plan to cover the nation’s borrowing needs through next year and past the presidential and congressional elections in November 2012.

Earlier Saturday, Reid said Washington was no closer to a deal that would raise the country’s borrowing limit and avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default. He accused Republican leaders of refusing to negotiate in good faith.

Reid made his remarks on the Senate floor shortly after the top two Republicans in Congress, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, voiced optimism the U.S. will reach agreement on the debt crisis.

In a news conference, Boehner urged President Barack Obama to come to an agreement with Republican leaders in Congress, saying if he does so, Democrats will follow. He said the president did not act on a plan that could have ended the impasse about a week ago.

Also Saturday, Reid and House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi met at the White House with President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Obama spoke by phone with McConnell.

On Saturday, the Republican-led House of Representatives easily defeated a debt plan produced by Reid, just as the Senate Friday night rejected a plan put forth by Boehner and narrowly approved by the House.

Reid needs 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to end debate on his measure and move to a final vote on Monday. But 43 opposition Republicans said they would not vote for his measure, lending still more uncertainty to the political standoff.

Senate Democratic leaders are hoping to complete their action on a debt limit increase by early Monday, just before U.S. stock markets reopen for the week. The deadlocked Washington debt negotiations have roiled investors, with the key Dow Jones Industrial Average of stocks dropping more this past week than it has in any week in the last 14 months.