It’s crunch time. Congressional leaders have at most two days to days to reach an agreement to raise the debt limit, and lawmakers have made little progress on preventing the unthinkable.
On Sunday talks “broke down,” according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), a particularly troubling development at a point where every hour counts. While August 2nd may be the deadline, a deal must be reached no less than 5 days sooner to guarantee passage in time.
The House of Representatives requires that bill be made available online for three calendar days before a vote. In the Senate, rules require that a cloture motion to end debate “ripen” for over a day, and even then 30 hours of debate are required.
Democratic and Republican legislators are now set out to go it alone, with competing plans to cut the deficit and raise the debt limit, beginning a high-stakes game of chicken to see which side blinks first.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to lay out a two-stage deficit reduction and debt limit package to GOP lawmakers at 2 p.m. today, and release make it available publicly this afternoon to allow for a Wednesday vote.
The Republican plan would raise the debt limit in two tranches, requiring a second vote early next year after a deficit reduction commission exacts steep spending cuts.
Democrats have called a plan that does not raise the ceiling through the end of 2012 a “non-starter,” and will introduce their own plan in the Senate. Reid provided a basic outline in a statement to reporters last night, saying it will cut $2.7 trillion from the federal deficit without tax increases.
President Barack Obama has largely been marginalized from this process, and no further meetings with lawmakers are scheduled at the White House this week after an unproductive session on Saturday.
White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley warned Sunday that “We may have a few stressful days coming up — stressful for the markets of the world and the American people.” Hang in there folks.
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