The U.S. House of Representatives is
expected to vote Thursday on a Republican plan to trim government
spending and raise the federal borrowing limit. The vote comes days
before a deadline to avert a possible default on U.S. debt obligations
that President Barack Obama says would trigger financial “Armageddon.”
Regardless of how the House votes, the bill is considered
dead-on-arrival in the upper chamber.
Republican Speaker John
At a time when political gridlock threatens to cast the United States
into financial ruin, a morning prayer offered by Senate Chaplain Barry
Black seemed particularly on-point:
“Lord, you have been our God from the beginning. Save us from
ourselves,” Prayed Black.
But if political flexibility and bipartisanship are key to resolving the
debt stand-off engulfing Washington, the chaplain’s words appeared to
fall on deaf ears.
Even before the House cast a single vote on Republican Speaker John
Boehner’s plan tying a two-stage debt ceiling increase to substantial
spending cuts, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronounced the bill a
lost cause in the Democratically-controlled upper chamber.
“Republicans cannot get the short-term band-aid they will vote on in the
House today. It will not get one Democratic vote in the Senate,” said
Late Wednesday, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Boehner
informing him of their intention to defeat the House bill if it should
come to the Senate.
Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he is baffled by the
“It is inconceivable to me that they would block the only bill that
could get through the House of Representatives and prevent a default
right now. Inconceivable,” McConnell said.
Democrats are rallying behind an alternative proposal by Senator Reid.
His plan also calls for significant spending cuts, but would authorize a
single increase in federal borrowing big enough to assure government
solvency through next year’s national elections. The Boehner plan would
force Washington to return to debt negotiations in another six months.
Reid says his plan would spare the nation from another painful political
fight over government finances months from now. He also argues that his
plan bends to Republican demands for deep spending cuts without tax
increases, and therefore constitutes a real compromise deserving of
Reid had a message for Republican lawmakers.
“Legislation is the art of compromise, and they need to learn that.
There are things that either side cannot get. Accept that, and move on,”
counter that Reid’s proposal is driven more by the political calendar
than an honest desire to put America’s fiscal house in order. Just as
the Boehner plan is considered dead-on-arrival in the Senate, so too is
the Reid plan in the House of Representatives. Senator McConnell says it
is Democrats who face a critical choice:
“Guaranteed default, or a bill that takes the specter of default off the
table while giving us another opportunity to address the very deficits
and debts that caused this crisis in the first place. Senate Democrats
are playing with fire here,” said McConnell.
The White House has said President Obama would consider a stop-gap debt
ceiling increase to give Congress additional time to act, but only if a
bipartisan deal has been hammered out by August 2. Beyond that date, the
U.S. government will have exhausted its ability to borrow money. Given a
$1.5 trillion federal budget deficit, the government will not have
enough funds to cover spending commitments while also servicing a $14.3
trillion national debt.