Durbin: Reid, McConnell Working on Debt Deal

Posted July 17, 2011 at 11:03am

Senate leaders are hashing out a plan this week to raise the debt ceiling and avert government default, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday.

“The good news is Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Mitch McConnell are sitting down and working out an approach that we’re going to try to tackle this week,” Durbin, who participated in last week’s White House talks on raising the debt ceiling, told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

With 16 days left before the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline, talks are intensifying between Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader McConnell (R-Ky.) on a plan based on a framework provided by the Republican leader.

The Senate is poised to hold votes this week on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and it’s likely to vote on the Republicans’ “cut, cap and balance” plan. Although neither measure is expected to pass, leaders hope the votes can clear the way for the ultimate package that would raise the debt ceiling before August and perhaps include a series of hard budget cuts being negotiated now.

“We have to check the boxes. One of them is to engage in this debate,” Durbin said regarding why the Senate would vote on the balanced budget amendment even though it is destined to fail.

But even as Reid and McConnell work on a package that could be palatable for both their caucuses, rank-and-file Senators continue to express reservations about McConnell’s “Plan B,” which would raise the debt limit in a series of three votes that put the burden on President Barack Obama and the Democrats but do not require hard cuts.

Sen. Tom Coburn said Sunday he was “unlikely” to vote for any iteration of the McConnell plan. The Oklahoma Republican walked away in May from the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six,” which had been working for months on a $4 trillion package of deficit reductions. Durbin is one of the remaining five members.

“The McConnell plan is more of Washington not taking responsibility. It’s a great political plan — it takes the pressure off all the politicians but allows us to pass a debt limit [extension] without making the hard choices that this country has to make,” Coburn said on “Face the Nation.”

“I haven’t firmly decided, but I’m unlikely to support it at this time,” the Oklahoma Republican added.

Coburn is still advocating for savings that he called “difficult, but not super hard,” such as cutting $1 trillion from the Pentagon budget over the next 10 years.