Beyond requiring that the budget be balanced each year, the so-called “cut, cap and balance” measure under House consideration would require that the constitutional provision include annual spending caps and a supermajority to approve tax increases.
That plan faces almost certain defeat in the Senate, where many lawmakers moved ahead on Monday with a compromise proposal.
The current timeline, according to aides in both parties, would call for the Senate to unveil its bipartisan plan later this week and begin to consider it Saturday. With a week of parliamentary hurdles to clear, the Senate could pass its bill by July 29, leaving the House just four days to consider whether to approve the plan before Aug. 2, when the country would no longer be able to pay its bills.
Democrats are watching the action in the House warily. They hope that the cut, cap and balance measure will convince House Republicans that they need to sign on to the Senate compromise.
Obama issued a cautionary threat Monday to veto the measure should it pass Congress. The White House said the bill would set up an “unacceptable choice” between a disastrous failure to lift the nation’s borrowing limit or passing a balanced budget amendment that would require draconian spending cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other federal programs.
“This is a measure designed to . . . duck responsibility, dodge obligations and dismantle, eventually, if signed into law, our social safety net,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.
Behind the public bluster were signs that quiet work continues on finding a compromise.
Obama met Sunday with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) to discuss the way forward. While aides provided no details about the meeting, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner said in an interview Monday that he is “absolutely” confident a deal will be reached.
“Despite what you hear, and this is a complicated place, Washington, people are moving closer together,” he told CNBC.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) have been making quiet progress on a last-resort deal to allow the debt ceiling to be raised in return for about $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
A new idea also came from Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who released a 600-page plan that he says would achieve $9 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade through a combination of proposals long anathema to both parties, including far-reaching spending cuts, entitlement reform and increased tax revenue.