Debt-ceiling plans face CBO fire: Does either cut as much as promised?
Added to the political question of whether either one of the competing debt-limit plans can pass Congress is a practical question from the nonpartisan CBO: How much will they cut the deficit?
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An editorial in The Wall Street Journal echoed the speaker's case. "What none of these [Republican] critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner's plan," the conservative editorial page pronounced.Skip to next paragraph
Backers argue that the Boehner plan would lead to more rigorous pressure to restrain federal spending than the Reid plan.
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Many analysts now see one of these competing plans, or some new hybrid of the two, as the most likely way to resolve the debt impasse by Aug. 2.
For his part, Reid responded to the CBO news Wednesday with a positive spin, saying it shows that "the Senate draft bill achieves $1.3 trillion more in deficit reduction than the Boehner plan."
But an analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, an independent organization focused on fiscal discpline, sees the two plans as "more similar than they are different."
Both plans called for $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts to be determined up front, and neither calls for higher taxes. Both would put in place a process designed to help additional budget savings occur despite the partisan divides that often contribute to gridlock.
Boehner has said his proposal would result in $3 trillion total deficit reduction over the decade, as the initial cuts are followed by additional spending restraint via a special process this fall.
Although Reid's plan offers a one-step path toward raising the nation's debt limit, his plan also involves deciding on additional spending cuts later this year.
Both plans envision a bipartisan group of 12 lawmakers to map out the later spending cuts.
One important difference relates to enforcement. Boehner's plan would make a future rise in the debt limit contingent on further moves to reduce future deficits by $1.6 trillion, while the Reid plan lacks such a mechanism to ensure that the intended savings actually occur.
The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget argues that the ideal approach for getting public debt under control over the next decade would be to set a specific target for the ratio of national debt to the size of the overall economy, to ensure that legislation actually achieves the goal of stabilizing and reducing US debt.
Even if one of the two plans, Boehner's or Reid's, reaches President Obama for his signature, major uncertainties about America's fiscal future will remain.
Neither plan offers concrete ideas on how to tame the rising cost of health-care programs, mend Social Security, or reform the nation's complex tax system.
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