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No weekend hiatus for debt limit talks

Mon., July 18, 2011

Less contention but still no deals as clock ticks

WASHINGTON – Hoping to break the impasse over the nation’s debt limit, White House and congressional leaders and aides continued their private discussions Sunday to exchange possible proposals to keep the government from defaulting on its bills.

Senate leaders have shaped the outline of a compromise that would attach as much as $1.5 trillion –largely in spending reductions – to a debt-ceiling increase, and establish a new congressional committee to present further cuts for a vote by year’s end. Other ideas also were being considered.

No signs emerged that the negotiations were as contentious as last week, when tempers sometimes flared. But no immediate breakthrough was apparent.

“There have been a lot of conversations going on, and they will continue,” Jacob Lew, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Congress is “figuring out what it could do,” Lew added on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That will continue over the next day or so.”

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden participated in the private discussions, which took place all weekend, according to the White House.

Obama had given congressional leaders until this weekend to return from their party caucuses with components of a debt-reduction plan they could support.

House Speaker John Boehner’s office said there was nothing new to report.

“Meetings have been occurring, ideas are being exchanged and scenarios are being discussed,” said Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel. “We are keeping the lines of communication open with all parties.”

GOP leaders have begun preparing their members for a compromise to achieve a midsized debt-reduction deal before Aug. 2, when the nation is expected to run out of money to pay all its bills if the debt ceiling remains at $14.3 trillion.

Republicans have refused to consider new taxes on wealthy Americans, ending hopes for a proposed comprehensive deficit-reduction package worth more than $4 trillion in savings over 10 years, which Obama had sought.

Both the House and Senate face several symbolic votes this week that will provide political cover for some lawmakers but are unlikely to resolve the standoff.

The House will vote Tuesday on legislation engineered by its Republican majority that would exchange a debt-ceiling increase for deep spending cuts across the federal government in current and future years.

The measure is not expected to become law, but the vote is important to the right flank that drives the House GOP majority and that is most resistant to raising the debt ceiling.

The so-called cut-cap-balance proposal would slash more than $110 billion in fiscal 2012, cap future spending and require congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would be sent to the states for the lengthy ratification process.

The Senate also is expected to vote midweek on a series of balanced-budget amendments. None is expected to win the two-thirds majority required for passage.


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