Debt debate: Where things stand
Speaker John Boehner gives the thumbs-up Friday after the House voted 218-210 to approve his debt-ceiling measure.
July 30th, 2011
10:28 PM ET

Debt debate: Where things stand

The federal government has three days left to raise the nation's current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the Treasury Department said. Failure to do so will risk an unprecedented national default.

If the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, Americans could face rising interest rates and a declining dollar, among other problems.

As the cost of borrowing rises, individual mortgages, car loans and student loans could become significantly more expensive. Some financial experts have warned of a downgrade of America's triple-A credit rating and a potential stock market crash.

Without an increase in the debt limit, the federal government will not be able to pay all of its bills next month. President Barack Obama recently indicated he can't guarantee Social Security checks will be mailed out on time. Other critical government programs could be endangered as well.

Where do things stand in the fight to raise the debt ceiling?


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, temporarily stopped legislative consideration of his debt ceiling proposal late Saturday night, reversing an earlier decision to hold a key procedural vote on the measure by 1 a.m. ET Sunday.

Negotiations were still underway at the White House, Reid said. The vote will now be held at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.

There are "many elements to be finalized" and still "a distance to go," Reid said. "We should give everyone as much room as possible to do their work."

The announcement comes a few hours after Reid denied claims from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that progress was being made on a debt ceiling deal.

The Republicans "refuse to negotiate in good faith," Reid said. "The process has not been moved forward during this day."

The Democratic-led Senate on Friday blocked the Boehner plan from being considered, voting 59-41 to table the measure.

Under an amended version, it would reduce federal deficits over the next decade by $2.4 trillion while raising the debt ceiling by a similar amount - meeting the GOP's demand that total savings should at least equal any total debt ceiling hike.

Roughly $1 trillion in the savings are based on the planned U.S. withdrawals from military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reid's plan also would establish a congressional committee made up of 12 House and Senate members to consider additional options for debt reduction. The committee's proposals would be guaranteed a Senate vote with no amendments by the end of this year.

In addition, it incorporates a process proposed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, that would give Obama the authority to raise the debt ceiling in two steps while providing Congress the opportunity to vote its disapproval.


House Speaker John Boehner expressed optimism Saturday that an agreement is near, despite the House's rejection of a plan proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"In spite of our differences, we're dealing with reasonable, responsible people," Boehner said.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, also said Saturday afternoon that he had talked to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden "within the last hour" and is "confident and optimistic" that there will be an "agreement within the very near future."

Earlier Saturday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives rejected Reid's proposed debt ceiling plan in a sharply polarized 173-246 vote. Republicans unanimously opposed the measure while most Democrats backed it. GOP leaders conducted the vote on Reid's bill under rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage, thereby ensuring its defeat.

The Republican-controlled House on Friday passed a proposal put forward by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that seeks to raise the debt ceiling and cut government spending while requiring that Congress pass a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The 218-210 vote was strictly on party lines. The vote had been scheduled to occur Thursday night, but Republican leaders postponed it because they lacked support within their own caucus to get it passed. After the House vote, the measure went to the Senate, where Democrats blocked it from being considered.

Boehner's plan calls for $917 billion in savings over the next decade, while creating a special congressional committee to recommend additional savings of $1.6 trillion or more. It would allow the debt ceiling to be increased by a total of roughly $2.5 trillion through two separate votes. The $2.5 trillion total would be enough to fund the federal government through the end of 2012.

The plan originally called for a congressional vote on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution by the end of the year. Boehner then reached out to disgruntled conservatives by amending the plan to require congressional passage of such an amendment as a condition for raising the debt limit by the full $2.5 trillion.

President Obama

Obama has endorsed Reid's plan and threatened a veto of Boehner's plan. The president strongly opposes any bill that doesn't raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election, and he has promised to veto any short-term debt ceiling extension unless it paves the way for a "grand bargain" of more sweeping reforms and revenue increases.

On Friday, Obama urged Senate Democrats and Republicans to take the lead in congressional negotiations. He said the House GOP plan "has no chance of becoming law." Obama also urged Americans to keep contacting members of Congress in order "to keep the pressure on Washington."

The president made a nationally televised plea for compromise Monday night, though he also criticized Republicans for opposing any tax hikes on the wealthy.

No face-to-face negotiations are currently scheduled for Saturday.

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Filed under: Barack Obama • Harry Reid • John Boehner • Politics
soundoff (370 Responses)
  1. tjriter

    eNVy the Unenviable spoken like a true BLUE nanny state liberal. Lets just spend our way out of everything and Blame Bush for everything . I bet, you would blame Bush for all Obama's decisions in office huh?

    July 31, 2011 at 12:19 am | Report abuse |
  2. IanA

    Republicans are willing to destroy this Country without even understanding what the debt ceiling issue is about: the ceiling *must* be raised to pay for DEBTS OWED NOW, *not* future spending. You'd think that people willing to risk economic suicide of their Country would give an f to actually read about the issues, but I guess that is just too much to expect from people who swallow without question anything & everything fox news, Limbagh, and rags like newsmax. These people were slowly & deliberately programmed for decades, and irrefutable facts mean nothing to them, no matter how many times you prove such.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jrh2010

    Hello boys and girls. Today in math we are going to learn how much every boy and girl in this country is on the hook for the federal debt.

    Now can we say about 45 grand each.

    Now uncle Sam , you see, their credit card is maxed out and some of those who run the country still need to buy some favors, so, boys and girls can you go to your piggy bank and give some cash to your favorite uncle.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. John in Cal

    If we let the Bush tax cuts expire, we can save 4 trillion in 10 years, and that's if congress does nothing(they're good at that). A friend asked me what you do with a used teabag? Throw it out.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Deee

      Only if that $4 trillion is actually spent on reducing the deficit.....otherwise it's just throwing more money down the bottomless pity pit.

      July 31, 2011 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
  5. brewbeer

    The previous administration took the country into two wars and did nothing with respect to asking the citizenry to pay for them. That is why we are now in this situation. It's time to open our wallets and pay for the weapons, the fuel, and the salaries of our sons and daughters that volunteered for these wars.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim McDonald

      ...and the current administration continued both wars, expanding one and then adding a third. But you want to give them more money after the trillion+ 'recovery' waste? No thanks.

      July 31, 2011 at 1:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. Curious

    Tax cuts actually cost money to keep in effect because they raise the debt. This is why there was a "sunset" provision on the Bush tax cuts that republicans agreed to. This is absolute nonsense by the republicans to insist on keeping these tax cuts they agreed to end.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • slider

      Duh...Obama and his super majority in December voted to keep ALL the Bush tax cuts in place. Don't see how that is the Republicans fault. Oh yeah...everything is the Republicans fault no matter what the facts are.

      July 31, 2011 at 12:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Kiki

      Seem to remember the Republicans wouldnt sign an extension of unemployment benefits for desperate Americans unless the Dems agreed to leave the tax cuts in place for their rich friends.

      July 31, 2011 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Barabino

    It really is sad how all our american people really feel about each other. it doesnt matter what color you or because if they dont come to and agreement black, white, purple, blue,ect will not have a check. people will not be able to pay rent, bills, or get food. the bleame game is over i looked at alot of comments up here and most of them were disgusting you people are really sad. yes we have a black president and he is doing the best he can with the little help he has. clinton did make sure ss would be good for a long time. what did bush do? and on top of that he was served two terms. obama if u read these i feel for you it was nothing you could do but take over where bush left. your a great president i would vote For u again

    July 31, 2011 at 12:45 am | Report abuse |
    • HH

      careful what you wish for the manta you want comes with a high price

      July 31, 2011 at 12:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jrh2010

    Everyone enters politics with honorable intentions. Then the puppet masters make themselves know and the rest plays out as planned.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:58 am | Report abuse |
  9. Dan

    They'll get it done. They have to. They know that no one will be re-elected if they screw this up and the economy worsens.

    July 31, 2011 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. David

    It sounds like the republicans are attempting to consolidate funds, while the dems are trying to burn the house over not plunging this country into further debt

    July 31, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
  11. sonia

    If the goverment doesn't have anything thing to give to the people,of america its self ! How can it redeuce,or multiple or develope anything if it can't be produced.If the people can't work, they can't. Prove for the people that can't work were do they go,or surive,if they can't work. Thank you in god bless everyone.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:09 am | Report abuse |
  12. brewbeer

    The damage was done when we were led into two wars without paying for them. Now we need to pay for them.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:12 am | Report abuse |
  13. Barabino

    At the end of the day if nothing is done all american people will suffer. it will not matter if you are a dem or a repub. god please bless america we are in need of something big......

    July 31, 2011 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
  14. Name*Isabel Lilia

    I know why the republicans don't care about social sec. and medicare it is because they don't pay into any of these benefits. They have better benefits.
    They will receive millions of dollars in their retirement. Our government needs to change all this mess. Our government will remain corrupt if we don' take steps to change this important matter. I do not believe that a political office should be a career for these corrupt politicians. My mission for the rest oft life will be to stop this and not allow a congressman to be in Washington mo more than two terms.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. GL Washington

    However this current mess turns out, perhaps the sadest lesson to be learned from reading the comments on various articles is how many people are willing to throw overboard the poor, old and disabled because they are inconvenient. Just as many people and more understand the inhumanity of those decisions and what it will say about us in the long run, so it's not hopeless, but the "survival of the fittest" ruthlessness displayed here will harm our country more than any current debt or deficit. This is an important moment for us. Which world view will the majority of voters choose?

    July 31, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
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