Second Senate Debt-Ceiling Effort Raises Pressure On House GOP

Jul 19, 2011

House Republicans arguably found themselves under even more pressure Tuesday as a renewed bipartisan effort emerged in the Senate to reach a debt-ceiling agreement to avoid a U.S. government default on its obligations.

The Gang of Six, a group of Democratic and Republican senators trying to bridge Congress' fiscal disagreements, came forward with a package of spending cuts and higher taxes to significantly cut deficits.

The proposal by the six senators, including Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, would reduce federal spending by $3.7 trillion over ten years, according to the document the senators distributed for review.

Coburn was something of the prodigal senator in the group, dropping out in apparent frustration several weeks ago only to return this week. And the group is actually now at seven with Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee signing on.

The group's idea is to link its spending reductions to a congressional vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Meanwhile, negotiating continued between Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader, on McConnell's controversial proposal to give President Obama the unilateral power to raise the debt ceiling.

Such power would permit Obama to essentially bypass the intra-GOP squabble that has placed the nation uncomfortably close to a default. Experts warn that such a default could be catastrophic for the world economy, sending shockwaves that would send the U.S. and other economies back into recession.

That there were now two proposals in the Senate as well as Obama's oft-repeated assertion that he was willing to do big spending cuts if only Republicans would agree to closing tax loopholes, could be seen as putting more pressure on House Republicans.

It allowed Obama and others to frame the House majority as so wedded to political posturing and ideology that its members would rather bring the U.S. economy to the brink for the sake of keeping its political base happy than actually make real progress in reducing deficits.

Obama seemed to say as much in an appearance in the White House press briefing room in which he praised the Senate gang's efforts:

So here's where we stand. We have a Democratic President and administration that is prepared to sign a tough package that includes both spending cuts, modifications to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare that would strengthen those systems and allow them to move forward, and would include a revenue component. We now have a bipartisan group of senators who agree with that balanced approach. And we've got the American people who agree with that balanced approach.

Hours after the president said this, the House voted on its Cut, Cap and Balance legislation that had little chance of becoming law since Senate Democrats were unlikely to let it get out of that chamber alive. And even if they did, the president has promised to veto it.

The House's legislation would cut $111 billion from fiscal 2012 spending, cap spending at 18 percent of gross domestic product and require Congress to pass a balanced-budget amendment.

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