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Boehner, hitting another wall on debt limit plan, calls off vote

The House speaker is again thwarted by conservative Republicans opposed to raising the nation's debt ceiling. The setback strengthens Democrats' hand in the final push to avoid a U.S. default.

July 28, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro and Kathleen Hennessey, Washington Bureau

Despite the setback Boehner suffered, that ultimate deal is likely to resemble his proposal in several key ways. Boehner's bill and a competing measure proposed by Reid have broad similarities, "so you can see the zone of compromise here," David Plouffe, a senior advisor to President Obama, said hours before the House called off its vote.

Both bills claim to reduce spending over the next decade by somewhat more than $2 trillion, an amount considerably smaller than the "grand bargain" Obama and Boehner had tried to reach.

Both would make the reductions in two stages. The first stage would impose about $900 billion in spending cuts over the next decade by capping future budgets for federal agencies. The second stage would involve a special congressional committee that would be directed to propose a package of spending cuts and, possibly, tax increases that would reduce the deficit by about another $1.5 trillion.

The most contentious difference between the two is that Boehner's plan would raise the debt limit in two stages. It would require that Congress pass the second round of deficit cuts before allowing the second increase in the debt ceiling, meaning the nation would see a repeat of this summer's debate around Christmas and into the new year.

Obama has opposed any plan that would have Congress return to the issue, fearing that a further round of debate on the debt ceiling in an election year would be even more partisan.

Reid's plan, by contrast, would raise the debt ceiling enough to carry the government through 2012. The compromise talks have focused on several proposals for elaborate "trigger" mechanisms that would try to guarantee that additional deficit-reduction measures would be voted on, but would not hold the debt ceiling hostage to those votes.

The goal is to bring aboard the seven Republicans who would be needed to avert a filibuster and pass a proposal in the Senate. That body would then vote sometime next week, as the final hours ticked down, with Reid counting on the pressure of imminent financial turmoil to persuade reluctant members of both houses to go along.

Christi Parsons in the Washington bureau contributed to this report.

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