Doing away with a conservative proposal on the debt ceiling three days after the measure passed the House, the Senate on Friday rejected a “cut, cap and balance” bill put forth by House Republicans that would have enacted sweeping spending cuts and implemented a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
The Senate voted 51-to-46 to table the measure, which passed the lower chamber on Tuesday 234-to-190. The bill would have made deep cuts to federal spending and called for congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment in order to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.
The rejection of the House plan clears the way for consideration by both chambers of a debt compromise that is currently being crafted behind closed doors by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Congress must pass a deal before Aug. 2, the date by which Treasury officials say the debt ceiling must be raised or the government will default on its debt obligations.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday morning that the Senate will not be in session this weekend, a shift from his announcement earlier this week that the chamber would meet “every day, including Saturdays and Sundays,” until a deal to raise the country’s debt ceiling is passed.
“This was a necessary step,” Reid said of the vote on the Republican proposal. “And the step now allows the process to move forward.”
Reid said that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “have been working diligently together” toward a debt deal.. The proposal currently under discussion “would address, as I understand, both taxes and spending,” Reid said. On Thursday, it appeared that the plan in the works might achieve $3 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade without the inclusion of any immediate tax increases.
Meanwhile, President Obama addressed public questions about the debt crisis at a townhall at the University of Maryland on Friday.
Because of the apparent progress being made in those discussions, the likelihood of Congress acting on a fallback plan that Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had been crafting now appears to be diminished.
“The path to avert default now runs first through the House of Republicans,” Reid said, noting that the Senate would not need to originate the legislation and therefore would not need to meet this weekend.
But Boehner said at a Friday morning news conference that he and Obama still are “not close to an agreement.”
The news Thursday that Obama and Boehner might be approaching an agreement was met with consternation from congressional Democrats, many of whom felt that the president was cutting a deal without receiving adequate concessions from Republicans on taxes and at the expense of his party’s principled stand against making cuts to popular entitlement programs.
The top two Democrats in both chambers met Thursday evening with Obama for more than two hours at the White House, although as of Friday morning there was little indication of what happened.
Reid on Thursday had excoriated House Republicans for changing course and opting not to be in session over the weekend, charging that the move sent “a bad picture” to the country and that it could imperil the chances of a grand bargain.
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