Congress, White House Settle in for Long Weekend

Posted July 30, 2011 at 9:27am

With the deadline to raise the debt ceiling rapidly approaching, this weekend will be decisive on settling whether Congress and the White House can avoid default.

However, Democrats and Republicans appeared no closer to a compromise Friday night.

In his weekly address Saturday morning, President Barack Obama urged the parties to come together to avoid the economic fallout from not raising the debt ceiling by Tuesday, when the Treasury Department expects the nation to begin running out of money.

“Any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan,” Obama said. “It must have the support of both parties that were sent here to represent the American people — not just one faction of one party.”

“And it’s got to be a plan that I can sign by Tuesday,” Obama continued.

Talks on a deficit reduction plan have ebbed and flowed in recent weeks. Democrats want a plan that includes spending cuts and new tax revenue, but Republicans oppose any tax increases as part of the plan to pass a debt ceiling increase.

Republicans said it is the Democrats who are holding back any progress on a deal.

“Republicans have tried to work with Democrats to avoid this result and put our country on a better path, but we need them to work with us,” Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said in the GOP weekly address Saturday.

He said Democrats and Obama are too committed “to the European-style of big government that [their] policies have set in motion. To Democrats in Washington, the answer isn’t to cut spending, but to raise taxes and keep on spending.”

Over a backdrop of back-channel negotiations expected to take place this weekend, the GOP-led House is set to vote Saturday afternoon on a plan put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), which is expected to fail.

The House vote comes after the Senate on Friday night killed a plan proffered by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that barely passed the House.

The latest version of Reid’s plan would cut about $2.4 trillion from the deficit over 10 years and raise the debt ceiling by the same amount, past the 2012 elections. The Congressional Budget Office had
initially scored the measure at a $2.2 trillion deficit cut. Democratic aides say the plan now includes additional mandatory savings.

Reid also changed his original proposal to include a two-step process to raise the debt ceiling, which allows it to be increased without Congressional approval — a strategy borrowed from a last-resort plan
first developed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

The plan also still includes a $1 trillion in estimated savings from the drawdown of forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and $100 billion in mandatory savings not attached to entitlement programs. Republicans
have been critical of the claimed savings because the drawdown was was already scheduled to happen.