US House to hold symbolic debt vote today

Last Updated: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 12:36

Washington: Defying a White House veto threat, US lawmakers vote Tuesday on a "Tea Party"-backed plan requiring draconian cuts in government spending as the price to avert a ruinous early August debt default.

The Republican-led House of Representatives was to take up a "Cut, Cap, and Balance" blueprint to raise the US debt limit, brushing off warnings that the measure is nearly sure to be dead on arrival in the Democratic-held Senate.

The mostly symbolic vote comes with time running out for the White House and polarized lawmakers to reach a deal to raise the US debt ceiling by August 2 or risk a catastrophic debt default with far-reaching global consequences.

US President Barack Obama`s budget office on Monday threatened to veto the blueprint and urged Republicans to drop their "empty political statement and unrealistic policy goals" in favor of a compromise with his fellow Democrats.

Republican House Speaker John Boehner called the threat "disappointing" and warned: "If we are going to raise the debt limit and avoid default, the White House must be willing to demonstrate more courage than we have seen to date."

The plan notably ties any increase in the debt ceiling to securing the two-thirds majorities needed in each chamber to send an amendment to the US Constitution requiring a balanced federal budget to the states for ratification.

Washington hit its debt ceiling on May 16 and has used spending and accounting adjustments, as well as higher-than-expected tax receipts, to continue operating normally, but can only do so until August 2.

Finance and business leaders have warned that failure to raise the US debt ceiling by then could send shock waves through a world economy still reeling from the 2008 collapse, while Obama has predicted economic "Armageddon."

Away from the political limelight, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were crafting a compromise bill that would give Obama broad powers to raise the debt ceiling.

The blueprint, described last week by aides who warned it was still in flux, would effectively let Obama do so with just Democratic votes while letting Republicans oppose the move with political but few practical consequences.

The plan would also call for as much as $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over ten years and set up a special commission of lawmakers empowered to propose more cuts that would get streamlined congressional consideration.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, July 19, 2011 - 12:36

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