TOPICS > Politics

House Republicans Push Vote on Debt Plan With Little Future

July 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
Tea Party supporters in the House pushed a "Cut, Cap and Balance" program on Monday, demanding a vote even though the House plan has little chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Kwame Holman reports on the debt-ceiling stalemate and the Senate's debt plan crafted by party leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Next, President Obama declared today that progress is being made on the debt and deficit negotiations with congressional leaders, but there was scant public evidence to back up his claim.

NewsHour congressional correspondent Kwame Holman reports.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president drew a line in the sand, as House Republicans prepared to vote Tuesday on their own debt reduction plan. Tea Party supporters in the House pushed the so-called ‘cut, cap, and balance’ program. It would cut $35 billion dollars for food stamps, Medicaid and other mandatory spending programs, cap next year’s operating budgets for federal agencies and seek a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

At the White House, presidential spokesman Jay Carney called the House bill nothing but classic Washington posturing.

JAY CARNEY, White House press secretary: This is a measure to designed to duck, dodge and dismantle — duck responsibility, dodge obligations, and dismantle, eventually, if enshrined into law, which it will not be — but it would essentially require the dismantlement of our social safety nets, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The president’s made clear he would veto this measure. But work continues on — on the actual measures that have a chance for getting through both houses of Congress and have a chance for becoming law.

KWAME HOLMAN: Indeed, the House plan was given no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate. But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans demanded a vote just the same.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, R-Ky. minority leader: I heard one of my Democratic colleagues say yesterday that the votes simply don’t exist to pass any bill in the Senate that balances the budget. My question is, why in the world not? If you can’t vote for a bill that says you will live within your means, then you have given up, and you agree that the unsustainable path is the only one we have. And that’s really completely unacceptable.

KWAME HOLMAN: An aide to House Speaker John Boehner said the cut, cap and balance plan still is the best path forward, despite the promised presidential veto.

Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor met Sunday with the president at the White House. Mr. Obama responded briefly to a shouted question about those talks today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We’re making progress.

KWAME HOLMAN: By some accounts, the best hope for progress could be the bipartisan Senate effort crafted by Minority Leader McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid. It would give the president sweeping authority to raise the federal debt ceiling on his own, but include votes on spending cuts.

It was unclear how such a plan ultimately would fare in the House, but giving Tea Party lawmakers even a symbolic say this week could help clear the way. In any event, Democratic Leader Reid announced the Senate will work continuously to get a deal.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev. majority leader: We’re going to stay in session every day, including Saturdays and Sundays, until Congress passes legislation that prevents the United States from defaulting on our obligations. I have spoken to the Republican leader. He understands the necessity of our being in.

KWAME HOLMAN: The president still was pushing to raise the debt-ceiling and cut the deficit by several trillion dollars before the Aug. 2 federal default deadline.

In the meantime, Senate Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma called for slashing much more, $9 trillion over the next decade, through spending cuts and new taxes.

SEN. TOM COBURN, R-Okla.: This plan offers the American people nine trillion reasons to stop making excuses and start solving the problems in Washington. It’s time to show the American people not only what is possible, but also what is necessary. What is not acceptable, however, is not having a plan and delaying reform until some perfect political moment that will never arrive.

KWAME HOLMAN: Whatever the merits of Coburn’s plan, a CBS News poll showed much of the public shares his frustration. Forty-eight percent disapproved of President Obama’s efforts in the debt-ceiling talks. Fifty-eight percent disapproved of the Democrats’ work in Congress. And Republicans fared worst, with a 71 percent disapproval rating.

Major bond rating agencies already have warned they may downgrade the U.S. credit rating if there’s no agreement soon. And, today, Moody’s suggested the government should eliminate the threat by simply removing any legal limit on its debt.