Nearly 40 House Republicans have said they would not support an increase in the debt ceiling without such a balanced-budget amendment. But Democrats strongly oppose the measure.
“At a minimum, Congress has a way to take action and avoid default on the U.S. debt. It’s critical,” Jacob Lew, Obama’s budget director, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
At the same time, the White House will continue to push for as big a deal as possible to cut the deficit, including spending cuts and changes to entitlements as well as increases in tax revenue.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Lew said he hoped the Republicans could compromise with Obama on a big deal. But he did not express optimism. “The question is: Do we have a partner to work with?” he asked.
Informal talks between the White House and Congress over the weekend did not appear to move the two sides significantly closer to a big deal.
Most lawmakers were focusing on the new Senate plan, originally proposed last week by McConnell and further developed by Reid. Under the plan, Obama would be able to raise the debt ceiling three times over the next year for a total increase of $2.5 trillion. Congress could also vote on a resolution of disapproval each time, assigning blame to Obama for increasing the nation’s debt.
In addition to the $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, the plan would create a committee of 12 lawmakers, which would issue a report to Congress by the end of the year on how to cut trillions more from federal deficits over the next 10 years. This panel would seek agreement where Obama and Republicans remain at odds — primarily over changes to entitlement programs and whether raising new tax revenue should play a key role in cutting the deficit.
“At the end of the day, Republican leaders have made it clear that we will not be the ones to put the government into default,” Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), the chamber’s No. 2 Republican, said on ABC’s “This Week. “Now the House of Representatives has to make its decision about what it will do.”
Other Republicans were exerting pressure for even bigger cuts that those envisioned in any of the plans. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) planned to propose a plan Monday to cut $9 trillion from the federal deficit over 10 years. “The McConnell plan is more of Washington not taking responsibility,” he said Sunday.
Lew expressed confidence that the debt ceiling will be raised despite some GOP objections. “There will be a fringe that believes that playing with Armageddon is a good idea, but I don’t think that’s where the majority will be,” he said.
“We basically have to accept this responsibility and do this job and lead,” said the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Obama and Boehner have both shown a keen interest in a “grand bargain,” but the issue of taxes has proved intractable. Such a deal could still be achieved in the coming weeks, though the prospects have dimmed.
Staff writer William Branigin contributed to this report.