Dueling debt-ceiling plans: Can either pass Congress?
House Republicans and Senate Democrats introduced their plans to resolve the debt-ceiling impasse before Aug. 2. But bipartisan hopes appear thin.
With eight days before the US loses its authority to borrow funds, House and Senate leaders launched dueling plans to resolve the crisis.Skip to next paragraph
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Both deliberately avoid calls to raise taxes – a nonstarter for Republicans that derailed previous bids at a solution. But neither plan can yet claim a clear or even likely path to a bipartisan majority.
“What they have in common is that neither one is likely to pass – even its own house,” says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “Here’s a case where you really do need a bipartisan agreement, and there’s no bipartisanship left.
The Republican plan
The House Republican plan, introduced on Monday by Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, promises $3 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years, spending caps, and the promise of a vote on a balanced-budget amendment. It’s a softer version of the "cut, cap, and balance" plan that passed the House on a near party-line vote July 19 but went nowhere in the Senate.
The plan also provides an expedited track for the president to request a hike in the debt limit to be implemented in two stages. A first step calls for Congress to pass $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, allowing the president to request a $1 trillion hike in the debt ceiling. The request would be deemed passed unless Congress votes a resolution of disapproval – a procedure first proposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
This expedited procedure allows Congress to raise the debt limit with only a third plus one votes in either the House or Senate, the threshold for sustaining a presidential veto – saving many lawmakers a difficult, but necessary vote.
The next stage empowers a new legislative commission – six Republicans and eight Democrats – to find an additional $1.8 trillion in spending cuts, that would include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which is a nonstarter for Democrats. If passed, this second-stage vote also opens the door to a presidential request to raise the debt ceiling through 2012, also on a fast track.
Finally, the GOP plan requires a vote in both the House and Senate on a balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution. The House GOP’s cut, cap, and balance measure set a higher threshold – requiring that Congress pass a balanced budget amendment and send it on to the states for ratification.