US Debt Deal Faces Critical Congressional Vote

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 6:05 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Congress is set to take critical votes on a package of increases to the government borrowing limit and cuts to spending.

The package is a compromise between Democrats, Republicans and the White House, and comes after months of political bickering and stalemate that pushed Washington to the edge of default on its massive debt.

In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell say they are optimistic about getting enough votes to pass the measure.

There may be more opposition in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Some conservatives complain that the compromise does too little to cut spending, while liberals say the cuts are too deep and that the bill does not raise taxes on the rich.

Mr. Obama said Sunday the deal cuts about $1 trillion in spending over 10 years and sets up a bipartisan panel in Congress to consider up to $1.5 trillion in further cuts. He said the panel will consider all options, including tax increases and cuts to social welfare programs like Medicare. If the panel fails to reach agreement, then the deal requires automatic spending cuts.

The president called the proposal a compromise that lets the country avoid default, while making a serious down payment on deficit reduction. He said default would have a “devastating effect” on the U.S. economy.

The White House says the agreement would avoid the need for another vote on raising the debt limit until 2013, providing greater “certainty” about the fragile economy. It also would delay the issue until after the next U.S. presidential and congressional elections.

All sides agreed on the need to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling. But they were deadlocked on what to cut and how fast those cuts should be made. Republicans and Democrats also split on the need for revenue increases.

To encourage lawmakers to act by the default deadline, the agreement includes the prospect of automatic cuts to social programs supported by Democrats and military spending favored by Republicans.

The White House said allowing the panel to consider reforms without a looming debt default will give lawmakers the ability to consider “essential reforms” without the political gamesmanship of the past few months.