Political Buzz Debt Ceiling Showdown, July 18, 19, 2011: Congress Votes & Passes Debt Plan, Speaker John Boehner’s Press Conference, Gang of Six’s Compromise Gains Traction


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


House Speaker John A. Boehner

House Speaker John A. Boehner passes a poster urging President Obama to offer his own debt plan after a news conference Monday on Capitol Hill. (Mark Wilson, Getty Images)


Obama calls new Senate plan a ‘very significant step’ in debt talks: President Obama on Tuesday praised a new bipartisan plan emerging in the Senate, calling it “broadly consistent” with the White House’s approach to raising the debt limit and describing it as a “very significant step.” “We’re in the same playing field,” he said.

Mitch McConnell: Republicans have tried to persuade the President of the need for a serious course correction, but weeks of negotiations have shown that his commitment to big government is simply too great to lead to the kind of long-term reforms we need to put us on a path to balance and economic growth. So we’ve decided to bring our case to the American people.

Washington Post-ABC News poll: Obama, Republicans viewed as not willing enough to compromise on debt ceiling: Majorities of Americans see both President Obama and congressional Republicans as not being willing enough to compromise in their stalemated budget negotiations, but the public sees the GOP leaders as particularly intransigent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News Poll. There is also growing dissatisfaction among Republicans with the hard-line stance of their congressional representatives: 58 percent now say their leaders are not doing enough to strike a deal, up from 42 percent in March.

  • President Obama on Deficit Talks: “We’re in the 11th Hour”WH, 7-19-11
  • House approves GOP debt reduction bill: The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a Republican-backed plan to extend the nation’s borrowing capacity in return for a cap on future government spending and a balanced budget amendment.
    The proposal would cut spending by $111 billion in 2012 and cap future outlays to 19.9% of the nation’s gross domestic output. It also would require that Congress send a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification, a lengthy process.
    Some Republicans who voted no did so because they oppose any increase in the debt ceiling, even with spending cuts…. – LAT, 7-19-11
  • ‘Gang of Six’ revives hope for big deal in stalled debt-ceiling talks: President Obama’s hopes for a ‘grand bargain’ both to raise the debt ceiling and rein in the deficit got a boost Tuesday when the Senate’s ‘Gang of Six’ proposed $3.7 trillion in deficit reductions…. – CS Monitor, 7-19-11
  • ‘Gang of Six’ plan hailed as debt-ceiling breakthrough. What’s in it?: The proposal by the ‘Gang of Six’ senators Tuesday draws on ideas from the deficit commission. The middle-of-the-road plan will have to overcome partisan concerns and a lack of time…. – CS Monitor, 7-19-11
  • 6 senators push bipartisan plan to cut deficit: The bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators on Tuesday offered a major plan to cut the deficit by almost $4 trillion over the coming decade, but whether it can break through the budget debate will depend on whether Republican lawmakers can find a way to endorse more than $1 trillion in new tax revenues reaped as Congress overhauls the loophole-choked U.S. tax code.
    The plan would also repeal a new long-term care program established under last year’s health overhaul and force an additional $500 billion in cuts from federal health care programs over the upcoming decade, according to documents provided to senators but not publicly released.
    The Gang of Six plan is separate from a politically freighted effort to lift the nation’s borrowing cap and avoid a first-ever default on U.S. obligations. President Barack Obama and Capitol Hill Republicans, however, have failed to reach an accord on what kind of spending cuts to pair with any increase in the borrowing cap.
    The six senators are Tom Coburn, R-Okla., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Mark Warner, D-Va., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
    Their plan calls for an immediate $500 billion “down payment” on cutting the deficit as the starting point toward cuts of more than $4 trillion over the coming decade that would be finalized in a second piece of legislation. Most of those savings would come from four years of caps imposed on the day-to-day budgets of Cabinet agencies set by the annual appropriations bills.
    Depending on how one keeps score, the measure would save between $3.7 trillion and $4.7 trillion over the coming decade. The lower figure is measured against a lower spending “baseline” based on a fiscal 2011 budget law enacted earlier this year. But if measured against Obama’s request for the current 2011 budget year — the standard used by the fiscal commission — the plan would save the higher figure…. – AP, 7-19-11
  • Bipartisan Plan for Budget Deal Buoys President: President Obama seized on the re-emergence of an ambitious bipartisan budget plan in the Senate on Tuesday to invigorate his push for a big debt-reduction deal, and he summoned Congressional leaders back to the bargaining table this week to “start talking turkey.”
    The bipartisan proposal from the so-called Gang of Six senators to reduce deficits by nearly $4 trillion over the coming decade — and its warm reception from 43 other senators of both parties — renewed hopes for a deal days after talks between Mr. Obama and Congressional leaders had reached an impasse.
    Financial markets rallied on the news. And with time running out before the deadline of Aug. 2 to raise the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, Mr. Obama’s quick embrace of the plan left House Republicans at greater risk of being politically isolated on the issue if they continue to rule out any compromise that includes higher tax revenues.
    Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader who has led opposition to any deal including tax increases, later issued a statement saying the bipartisan Senate plan includes “some constructive ideas to deal with our debt.”…. – NYT, 7-20-11
  • Gang of Six back from the brink: Tom Coburn reveals his ‘Back in Black’ plan to reduce the federal deficit, Monday, July 18, 2011, during a news conference. | AP Photo Coburn told the group that he was ‘back,’ which prompted a round of applause.
    The once moribund Senate “Gang of Six” gained new life Tuesday after Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn unexpectedly rejoined the group and President Barack Obama praised a new effort to cut the debt by as much as $3.7 trillion over the next decade.
    Speaking at the White House Tuesday afternoon, Obama gave the Gang of Six a big boost, saying its proposals were “roughly” in line with his negotiations during the stalled debt-ceiling talks. But he said there would need to be broader buy-in to the proposal and he said Congress needed to have “fail-safe” plan, being drafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to avert a default. “I think we’re now seeing a potential for a bipartisan consensus,” Obama told reporters.
    Other top senators are also getting behind the plan, including Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, who told a group of senators Tuesday he would back the Gang of Six’s proposal, sources say. The fast-moving developments mean that elements of the proposal could influence the stalled talks to raise the debt-limit before the Aug. 2 deadline.
    The Republican led House, which is on the verge of voting on the conservative “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan that has little chance of passing the Senate, remains a tough sell on the Gang of Six.
    The House Republican leadership staff is reviewing the Gang of Six proposal, but has several concerns, according to aides….. – Politico, 7-20-11
  • Short-term debt limit extension an option, Obama says: President Barack Obama would support a short-term extension of the debt limit if Democrats and Republicans reach agreement on a broader deficit-cutting deal but need more time to move it through Congress, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.
    “If both sides agree to something significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize details,” Carney said.
    By loosening the president’s opposition to a short-term extension, the White House ups the pressure on Congress to seriously consider a bipartisan Senate proposal released Tuesday.
    The $3.7 trillion plan offered by the “Gang of Six” received largely positive reviews from both parties, but Senate leaders questioned whether there is enough time before the Aug. 2 deadline to put the framework into legislative language, receive a cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and round up support.
    Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have never been enthused by the Gang of Six, concerned that rank-and-file members would cut a budget deal that muddied their respective party’s 2012 campaign strategies. For Republicans, the “Gang of Six” plan would mean a package that included new revenues, and for Democrats, a willingness to make serious changes to entitlement programs.
    Obama spoke by phone Tuesday night with House and Senate leaders, and he’s scheduled to meet Wednesday afternoon with Democratic leaders. It is unclear when he will sit down again with Republicans…. – Politico, 7-20-11
  • Republicans and Democrats praise ‘Gang of Six’ debt reduction plan: On Tuesday morning the so-called “Gang of Six” unveiled a revamped version of their debt-reduction plan, which could become the breakthrough Congress has been waiting for. The group, which began working on debt talks weeks ago, also welcomed back Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. Coburn quit the group in May.
    The new plan offered by the Gang reduces the federal deficit by $3.7 trillion over the next decade, and increases revenues by $1 trillion through reforms in the tax code.
    Coburn praised the plan on Tuesday, saying it has a good chance of garnering the support of at least 60 Senators.
    The plan was negotiated by the Gang, sans Coburn: Democrat Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Crapo of Idaho.
    The group presented the plan during a meeting where more than 50 Senators were in attendance. Afterward, both Republicans and Democrats alike praised the proposal…. – The Daily Caller, 7-19-11
  • Boehner considers alternatives to GOP debt plan: House Speaker John Boehner says he is considering alternative budget plans even as the House takes up a GOP proposal to cap spending and eventually require a balanced budget.
    Speaking at a Tuesday press conference, Boehner said his preference is to pass the House GOP plan, which would increase the government’s ability to borrow but only after Congress passes a balanced budget constitutional amendment.
    The House is scheduled to vote on the plan Tuesday. But, Boehner said, “I do think it’s responsible for us to look at what Plan B would look like.”… – AP, 7-19-11
  • Bill Clinton: I Would Use 14th Amendment To Raise The Debt Ceiling: With the deadline to raise the debt ceiling just two weeks away, former President Bill Clinton said that if he were in President Obama’s shoes, he would use the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling “without hesitation.” Clinton told The National Memo’s Joe Conason that he would invoke the constitutional option and “force the courts to stop me” if “it came to that” and a deal could not be reached with Congress.
    “I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said.
    Clinton said lifting the debt ceiling “is necessary to pay for appropriations already made” by Congress. “You can’t say, ‘Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears,” he added.
    Despite saying he would raise the debt ceiling without congressional legislation, Clinton thinks the issue will be resolved by the August 2 deadline. “It looks to me like they’re going to make an agreement, and that’s smart,” he said. – ABC News, 7-19-11
  • House set to vote on GOP debt cutting measure:

    The House is to vote Tuesday on a “cut, cap, and balance” plan favored by conservatives
    Members of the “Gang of Six” are to present their own debt reduction plan Tuesday
    Leaders are working on a fallback plan initially proposed by the Senate minority leader
    The United States must raise its $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2 or risk a default

    The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is set to vote Tuesday on a measure that would impose strict caps on all future federal spending while making it significantly tougher to raise taxes — the solution favored by hard-line conservatives to the current debt ceiling crisis.
    The so-called “cut, cap and balance” plan has virtually no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate or overcoming a promised presidential veto. It would, however, allow Republicans to clearly demonstrate their preference for steps favored by many in the tea party movement even as their leadership seeks a middle ground with Democrats.
    Top administration and congressional officials have been actively exploring a fallback plan proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that would raise the debt ceiling by up to $2.5 trillion through the 2012 election and avoid a potentially devastating default next month.
    At the same time, a bipartisan group of senators who worked for months to forge an agreement is scheduled Tuesday to unveil their plan to slash trillions of dollars off the debt over the next decade. The “Gang of Six” members will reveal their plan privately to a group of 40 to 50 senators…. – CNN, 7-19-11

  • Symbolic House vote on debt ceiling approaches: The Republican proposal calls for deep spending cuts. Negotiations to avert a federal default continue behind the scenes.
    The House prepared to vote on a Republican proposal to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for steep spending cuts, in defiance of President Obama’s vow to veto the bill if it passed both chambers of Congress.
    The standoff underscored the largely symbolic nature of the Republican measure amid ongoing behind-the scenes negotiations to avert a federal default.
    The talks revolved around a Senate-led plan to let Obama act alone to increase the debt ceiling through 2012. The plan also would include as much as $1.5 trillion in budget cuts identified by Republican and Democratic negotiators after weeks of closed-door debate…. – LAT, 7-19-11
  • GOP’s Plan for Debt Reform: Win in 2012, Senate GOP Doesn’t Believe Obama on Big Debt Deal:

    “There’s only one thing that is going to change the long-term trajectory on debt and spending in the federal government: the next election.” — Aide to a Senate Republican leader to Power Play on the way forward on debt-ceiling negotiation

    As the chances for a big deal on debt and deficits evaporate in the heat of deadline negotiations, fiscal hawks are growing increasingly frustrated.
    Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is releasing his “Back in Black” plan for massive debt reduction and four of his former compadres from the Gang of Six are rolling out their less-ambitious deficit plan.
    House Republicans, meanwhile, are pushing through the conservative-backed proposal for deep cuts now, spending caps later and a balanced budget amendment farther down the road.
    None of these big-ticket items seem to be going anywhere before a projected government shutdown begins sometime in the next few weeks, so why bring them up now?
    Part of it is the hope for a miraculous ending to this months-long debate in which a very liberal president and very conservative members of Congress decide to ditch their dogmas in the name of bipartisan compromise. It’s never happened before, but hey, there’s a first time for everything, right?
    Part of it is the desire to be able to say “I told you so” when the grubby, short-sighted final product is produced. By putting a plan out now, lawmakers can take the high ground later on. “My plan would have tripled the [cuts/taxes on millionaires and billionaires/savings/etc.] compared to the compromise package.”… – Fox News, 7-19-11

  • Analysis: McConnell plan may be reckoning for Republicans: Senator Mitch McConnell’s plan to avert an imminent U.S. debt default could lead to a day of reckoning for his Republicans as they weigh the prospect of fiscal disaster against the demands of Tea Party activists. With other efforts to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling at a standstill, McConnell’s “Plan B” to avoid default is increasingly seen as “Plan A” in Washington.
    The proposal by the top Republican in the Senate would dump the task into the laps of President Barack Obama and his Democrats, forcing them to back a $2.4 trillion increase in borrowing before the November 2012 elections as recession-weary voters worry about the country’s growing mountain of debt. Pinning the debt increase on Obama and the Democrats could help McConnell pick up the four seats needed to win Republican control of the Senate and further his stated goal of making Obama a one-term president. It also may ensure his party avoids getting blamed for an August 2 default that could push the United States back into recession and upend financial markets across the globe.
    Surprisingly, Democrats have embraced the plan as the best possible way to get an increase in the debt ceiling through a divided Congress. Obama could also turn the situation to his advantage. “Obama’s answer (could be) that Republicans in Congress didn’t step up and deal with this so I’m making the tough decisions and showing leadership,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report.
    The Democratic-controlled Senate is expected to pass the McConnell measure if it comes up for a vote this week, but prospects are less certain in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives…. – Reuters, 7-19-11
  • Group of House Republicans Aim to Stop McConnell Debt-Ceiling Plan: A group of House Republicans is moving to try and upend an effort by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) to give President Barack Obama more power to raise the government’s borrowing authority, complicating efforts by the White House to broker a deal before the government begins defaulting on its obligations after Aug. 2.
    Rep. Joe Walsh (R., Ill.) circulated a letter to other House Republicans Monday that urges House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) and Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) not to bring Mr. McConnell’s proposal to the House floor for a vote…. – WSJ, 7-19-11
  • Reed demands Obama produce deficit plan: Rep. Tom Reed, R-Corning, today led several dozen House Republicans in demanding that President Obama release a detailed deficit reduction plan as the nation moves perilously closer to reaching its debt ceiling on Aug. 2.
    “Because you have not presented any written detailed proposal to raise the debt ceiling, our constituents are left in the dark as to what specific cuts you propose as well as what taxes you are planning to raise,” Reed wrote in the letter to the president, which 64 other members of Congress co-signed.
    “It is regrettable that we have reached this point, but the time for blame is long past,” Reed said. “This is not a partisan crisis. It is a national crisis. However, we remain optimistic that the current negotiations give us an unusual opportunity to ensure we put our country on a path to fiscal solvency once and for all.”… – Buffalo News, 7-19-11
  • Developments in U.S. debt talks: The House of Representatives is set to vote on the Republican “cut, cap and balance” plan that calls for immediate spending cuts and capping the level of federal spending at a percentage of the economy — 18 percent by 2021. The largely symbolic measure sets the stage for the Republican-controlled House to consider a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget.
    House Speaker John Boehner and other House Republican leaders will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) to discuss the debt limit after a closed-door meeting of Republican members of the House.
    House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer is likely to discuss the status of debt negotiations at a weekly news briefing after a closed-door meeting of House Democrats. The news conference is set for 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)…. – Reuters, 7-19-11
  • Congress to vote on plans to cut, balance budget: Congress plans two largely symbolic but politically significant votes starting today on proposals that conservative groups vow will be remembered during the 2012 elections: a plan to slash federal spending and a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
    But the real action continues to be behind the scenes, where the White House and congressional leaders are frantically trying to work out a deal that will raise the federal debt limit while cutting future federal budget deficits. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday that until a deal is done, the Senate will stay at work seven days a week. “The Senate will stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from now until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations,” he said.
    Meanwhile, the coming two votes are significant for a couple of reasons – one political, one tactical. Supporters will feel a strong political wind at their backs: A well-funded network of conservative groups is spotlighting the votes as defining ones…. – McClatchy Newspapers, 7-19-11
  • In Debt Crisis, a Legislative Trick Up the Sleeve: With Republicans and Democrats still deeply divided over how to shrink the budget deficit and the national debt, the only way for them to avoid a financial crisis at this late date may be to perform a legislative magic trick. The idea, conjured by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, would allow Republicans to accede to an increase in the government’s debt limit without actually voting for it or giving in to President Obama’s demand for tax increases as part of any deal. It would give the White House a way out of the box that it is in and avert a potential deeper blow to the economy. And it would allow Democrats to head into an election year having backed substantial spending cuts without having, so far, buckled to pressure to bite into the entitlement programs that represent core values to many liberal voters.
    That, at least, is the goal of the approach offered last week by Mr. McConnell, who continued to work with Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader, on Monday to refine their fallback proposal even as the parties exchanged fire leading up to coming floor fights in the House and Senate over a Republican deficit-reduction plan. The Senate leaders are developing cuts and other deficit-reduction provisions to provide some lubricant to pass the measure, which has been ridiculed by many Republicans as a slick effort to dodge accountability.
    While negotiations continued, House and Senate Republicans plan to focus their energy this week on the so-called cut, cap and balance proposal embraced by conservatives. It would reduce spending next year by more than $100 billion, cap future spending based as a percentage of the economy and require a balanced-budget amendment to be approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification before the debt limit could be increased.
    Before the House debate scheduled for Tuesday even began, the administration issued a veto threat on behalf of Mr. Obama, who on Sunday had a private meeting at the White House with the two top House Republicans — Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the majority leader.
    “The bill would undercut the federal government’s ability to meet its core commitments to seniors, middle-class families and the most vulnerable, while reducing our ability to invest in our future,” the White House said in a statement. It said the measure “would set unrealistic spending caps that could result in significant cuts to education, research and development, and other programs critical to growing our economy and winning the future.”… – NYT, 7-18-11


“We’re making progress. We can’t let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing.” — President Barack Obama

  • USA Today/Gallop Poll: Low ratings for Obama, Congress on debt talks: Half of Americans surveyed in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll say President Obama and Congress are doing a worse job than their predecessors in dealing with the nation’s problems. Four in 10 call it the worst they’ve seen in their lifetimes.
    At least two-thirds say congressional Republicans and Democrats put their own political interests ahead of the country’s best interests. Just 7% see both sides as negotiating in good faith.
    Obama fares better on that question, though he scores only an even split between those who say he’s protecting his own interests and those who say he’s looking out for the nation…. – USA Today, 7-18-11
  • CBS News Poll: Support for debt ceiling increase doubles: Support for increasing the debt ceiling has risen 22 points from last month, from 24 percent to 46 percent. Opposition has fallen 20 points in that period, from 69 percent to 49 percent. (See graphic at left.)
    The poll found that the more one follows the debt ceiling debate, the more likely he or she is to support an increase: 51 percent of those who are following the debate very closely think the debt ceiling should be raised, compared to just 29 percent of those who are not following it closely.
    The shift toward more support for an increase can be seen across the political spectrum. Last month, 54 percent of Democrats opposed raising the debt ceiling. Now 61 percent support increasing it. And while a majority of Republicans and independents oppose an increase, it’s by a narrower margin than last month. Thirty-three percent of Republicans now say the debt ceiling should be raised, up from 16 percent last month; 40 percent of independents say it should be raised, up from 21 percent last month.
    Two thirds of Americans back the Obama administration position that a deal to increase the debt ceiling should include both spending cuts and tax increases, while just 28 percent back the Republican position of only spending cuts. Three in four say an agreement they do not fully support would be preferable to having the U.S. default on its debts…. – CBS News, 7-18-11
  • Latest developments in debt ceiling standoff: Congress has until Aug. 2 to raise the federal borrowing limit or the government will run out of money and possibly default on its debt. House Republicans say they won’t raise the debt limit without equal spending cuts. President Barack Obama and Democrats insist that higher revenues must be included.
    Monday’s developments: Obama says the two sides are “making progress” in negotiations. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says the Senate will meet each day until the issue is resolved.
    What’s Next: Republican House to vote Tuesday on bill to cut and cap spending and require that Congress pass a balanced budget amendment before the debt ceiling can be raised. While the bill is unlikely to pass the Democratic Senate, Obama threatens to veto it. – AP, 7-18-11
  • Boehner, Cantor met with Obama on Sunday: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) met Sunday with President Obama at the White House to discuss the path forward on raising the debt ceiling.
    Michael Steel, a spokesman for Boehner, confirmed the Sunday morning meeting and said that while the lines of communication “are being kept open,” there remains “nothing to report in terms of an agreement or process.” News of the meeting was first reported by Politico.
    “We believe cut, cap and balance represents the best path forward, and we are looking forward to the House vote on it tomorrow,” Steel said, referring to the chamber’s planned vote on a measure that would call for any increase in the debt limit to be accompanied by significant spending cuts, statutory spending caps and congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution…. – WaPo, 7-19-11
  • Senate debt plan emerges Members seem likely to raise limit; outcome in House more iffy: A bipartisan effort in the Senate to allow President Barack Obama to raise the federal debt ceiling in exchange for about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years gained momentum Sunday, as leaders agreed they would have to act in the next two weeks to avert a potential default by the U.S. government.
    The growing sentiment for raising the federal limit on U.S. borrowing sets the stage for a week of largely scripted actions on Capitol Hill, where leaders in both chambers are looking to build support for the plan being crafted by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
    Republican leaders will first push forward in the House and the Senate with a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget. The measure is virtually certain to fail in the Senate, which will then take up the debt limit proposal by midweek.
    If that clears the Senate, the House is expected to revise the measure, adding a proposal to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years — savings that will come through cuts to domestic programs and not cuts to entitlement or new taxes.
    The plan would also create a new congressional panel that would, by the end of the year, seek to come up with a way of reducing the deficit by another $2.5 trillion or more through cuts in entitlements and other steps.
    Although the debt-limit plan has broad support in the Senate, the prospects in the House are less clear and rely largely on whether House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, will bring the proposal up for a vote and how many House Democrats would support it since few Republicans are expected to get behind it…. – WaPo, 7-18-11
  • Talks continue over debt ceiling: The White House and congressional leaders exchange possible proposals through the weekend. No immediate breakthrough is apparent.
    Hoping to break the impasse over the nation’s debt limit, White House and congressional leaders and aides continued their private discussions Sunday to exchange possible proposals to keep the government from defaulting on its bills.
    Senate leaders have shaped the outline of a compromise that would attach as much as $1.5 trillion largely in spending reductions to a debt ceiling increase, and establish a new congressional committee to present further cuts for a vote by year’s end. Other ideas also were being considered.
    No signs emerged that the negotiations were as contentious as last week, when tempers sometimes flared. But no immediate breakthrough was apparent.
    “There have been a lot of conversations going on, and they will continue,” Jacob Lew, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Congress has been “figuring out what it could do,” Lew added on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That will continue over the next day or so.” President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden participated in the private discussions, which took place all weekend, the White House said…. – LAT, 7-18-11
  • Reid to keep Senate in session until debt ceiling raised: Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced Monday the Senate will remain in session every day — including weekends — until Congress approves an increase to the nation’s debt ceiling.
    “The Senate has no more important task than making sure the United States does not fail to pay our bills for pre-existing obligations like Social Security for the first time in our history,” Reid said in a statement. “To ensure that we meet this responsibility, the Senate will stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, from now until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations.”… – Politico, 7-18-11

Full Text July 19, 2011: President Obama Speech to Press on Deficit Talks: “We’re in the 11th Hour”



President Barack Obama on Efforts to Find a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction

President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room on the status of efforts to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction, July 19, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

President Obama on Deficit Talks: “We’re in the 11th Hour”

Source: WH, 7-19-11Transcript

Download Video: mp4 (69MB) | mp3 (7MB)
Over the weekend, President Obama continued to urge both parties to come together around a balanced package to deficit reduction. Today, the President provided an update on the efforts to lift the debt ceiling and also tackle the underlying challenges we face with our national debt and deficits:

Remarks by the President on the Status of Efforts to Find a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:32 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  I wanted to give folks a quick update on the progress that we’re making on the debt ceiling discussions.

I was in contact with all the leadership over the course of the weekend and continued to urge both Democrats and Republicans to come together around an approach that not only lifts the debt ceiling but also solves the underlying challenges that we face when it comes to debt and deficits.

Some progress was made in some of the discussions, some narrowing of the issues.  Speaker Boehner and the Republican House caucus felt it necessary to put forward the plan that they’re going to be voting on today.  I think everyone’s estimation is, is that that is not an approach that could pass both chambers, it’s not an approach that I would sign and it’s not balanced.  But I understand the need for them to test that proposition.

The problem we have now is we’re in the 11th hour and we don’t have a lot more time left.  The good news is that today a group of senators, the Gang of Six, Democrats and Republicans — I guess now Gang of Seven, because one additional Republican senator added on — put forward a proposal that is broadly consistent with the approach that I’ve urged.  What it says is we’ve got to be serious about reducing discretionary spending both in domestic spending and defense; we’ve got to be serious about tackling health care spending and entitlements in a serious way; and we’ve got to have some additional revenue so that we have an approach in which there is shared sacrifice and everybody is giving up something.

And so, for us to see Democratic senators acknowledge that we’ve got to deal with our long-term debt problems that arise out of our various entitlement programs, and for Republican senators to acknowledge that revenues will have to be part of a balanced package that makes sure that nobody is disproportionately hurt from us making progress on the debt and deficits I think is a very significant step.  And as I said, the framework that they put forward is broadly consistent with what we’ve been working on here in the White House and with the presentations that I’ve made to the leadership when they’ve come over here.

So here’s where we stand.  We have a Democratic President and administration that is prepared to sign a tough package that includes both spending cuts, modifications to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare that would strengthen those systems and allow them to move forward, and would include a revenue component.  We now have a bipartisan group of senators who agree with that balanced approach.  And we’ve got the American people who agree with that balanced approach.

My hope, and what I will be urging Speaker Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, as well as Leader Reid and Mitch McConnell, is that they, tomorrow, are prepared to start talking turkey and actually getting down to the hard business of crafting a plan that can move this forward in time for the August 2nd deadline that we’ve set forward.

Just a couple of other points I will make.  Some of you may ask, what does it mean for the plan that Senator McConnell and Senator Reid had been working on?  Our attitude is, is that that continues to be a necessary approach to put forward.  In the event that we don’t get an agreement, at minimum, we’ve got to raise the debt ceiling.  So that’s the bare minimum that has to be achieved, but we continue to believe that we can achieve more.

And so I want to congratulate the Gang of Six for coming up with a plan that I think is balanced.  We just received it, so we haven’t reviewed all the details of it.  It would not match perfectly with some of the approaches that we’ve taken, but I think that we’re in the same playing field.  And my hope is, is that we can start gathering everybody over the next couple of days to choose a clear direction and to get this issue resolved.
So far, at least, the markets have shown confidence that leadership here in Washington are not going to send the economy over a cliff.  But if we continue to go through a lot of political posturing, if both sides continue to be dug in, if we don’t have a basic spirit of cooperation that allows us to rise above immediate election-year politics and actually solve problems, then I think markets here, the American people, and the international community are going to start reacting adversely fairly quickly.

So I think it’s very important for in these next couple of days to understand we don’t have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures; we don’t have any more time to posture.  It’s time to get down to the business of actually solving this problem.  And I think we now are seeing the potential for a bipartisan consensus around what that would take.

It will be hard.  It will be tough.  There are still going to be a lot of difficult negotiations that have to take place in order for us to actually get something done.  And as I said, we have to have that failsafe that Senator McConnell and Senator Reid are working on.  But the hope is, is that everybody seizes this opportunity.

All right?  Okay, guys, I’m going to let Jay answer questions today.  I think I’ve been pretty good to you guys.  (Laughter.)  But after the votes today in the House, I’ll call up Speaker Boehner and the other leadership and we’ll arrange for times where we bring folks back here, and hopefully we’ll be able to report on some additional progress over the next few days.

All right?  Thank you very much, guys.

Q    When will you announce whether you will be supporting the Gang of Six plan?  Would that be in the next day?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I said, I think what you’re going to be seeing is an evaluation of that plan versus the things that we’ve been looking at.  I think what you’re going to see is some significant overlap.  But obviously just because we might agree in principle with a range of issues with six senators or seven senators, that doesn’t get us out of the House of Representatives; that doesn’t get us out of the Senate.  There’s going to have to be a broader agreement on the part of all the leadership that we’re going to get this done in a serious way, and we’ve got a tight deadline to do it.

All right?  Thanks, guys.

END 1:38 P.M. EDT

Patricia A. Kennedy: Accessible Document, U.S. Constitution designed to be read by all


History Buzz

Source: The Reporter, 7-19-11

As a former history professor who has recently moved to Vacaville, I took the opportunity to attend the Tea Party seminar on the Constitution. I have taught American history and world civilizations in college classes for 30 years. I also have taught the history of the Constitution (all of it) and its significance in our lives. I wanted to see what was said, and I enjoy listening to other people carry on this great debate that is dividing our country. I was happy to see the turnout of people at the meeting.Several of Jack Batson’s remarks about this seminar were troubling (“Where’s Rest of Story? Constitution class takes too-limited view,” July 9), including his comment that the seminar was led by “35 red-shirted patriots.” Not only is that inaccurate, but it is irrelevant.

He was also upset that the class was led by a volunteer building contractor from Phoenix who travels around the United States holding these seminars. Since the authors and founders of our Constitution were themselves merchants, lawyers, contractors and shipbuilders, to name a few of their varied professions, I don’t see this as a problem. To me, that is one of the strengths of our Constitution: Anyone who really wants to understand it — and is willing to take the time to do so — can. It is not thousands of pages of legal terms still to be defined, as some of our current laws are. As different as our lives are today, we can still understand how the Constitution can be interpreted to answer the changing times….READ MORE

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