Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., saw his plan to raise the debt ceiling turned back Sunday afternoon by a vote of 50-49.
The plan needed 60 votes to advance, and had been blocked earlier in the weekend as well on Friday by a Republican filibuster. However, Reid has been negotiating on a deal with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., on raising the debt ceiling, and McConnell indicated on several of the Sunday morning talk shows that the two parties were “very close” to a deal.
President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are also reportedly involved in the talks. Reid indicated that he may call for another vote before the end of the day on the plan, which could be amended by adding any plan agreed to by Republicans.
“We’re very close,” said McConnell, on CNN’s State of the Union, in an interview with Gloria Borger. “We had a very good day yesterday. Both the President and the Vice President called me, and the President talked to the Speaker as well. They understand that with a Republican majority in the House and a very robust Republican minority in the Senate, we have to come together, and I think we’ve made very dramatic progress in that direction since April, for example, when the administration was asking us to raise the debt ceiling with no spending reductions at all, nothing. Now I think I can pretty confidently say that this debt ceiling increase will avoid default, which is important for everybody to know. We’re not going to have a default for the very first time in our 235-year history. We’re not going to have job-killing tax increases in it.”
Over the weekend, the House voted to approve Boehner’s plan for lifting the debt ceiling, which would also require approval of a balanced budget amendment, but that bill was rejected by the Senate. The deal under negotiation reportedly includes a separate vote on a balanced budget amendment, but the amendment would not need to be passed by the Senate in order to raise the debt ceiling. A bipartisan commission of lawmakers would be set up to decide on a package of further spending cuts and possible revenue raisers, which could include tax reforms. Their package of recommendations would be subject to an up or down vote by Congress, but if the package did not pass, that could trigger a series of across-the-board spending cuts that could affect entitlement programs, defense spending and discretionary spending.
Reid confirmed that the two sides were closing in on a deal. “We are close to an agreement with Republican leaders,” he said at the beginning of the debate, according to The Hill. “After speaking to Republican leader Mitch McConnell this morning, we are cautiously optimistic.”
Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., was the only Republican to cross party lines to vote in favor of Reid’s bill. Several on the other side of the aisle also voted against the bill, including Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., Bernie Sander, I-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., along with Reid. By voting against the bill, Reid will be able to bring it to the floor of the Senate again.
Afterward he asked for a temporary recess, but warned lawmakers that they could be called back later for a vote. He was asked by McConnell if they would be given enough time as several lawmakers wanted to leave the Capitol. Reid agreed, but warned lawmakers not to go to any ballgames.
During the debate over the bill, Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and John McCain, R-Ariz., engaged in a lively debate over the debt limit and tax increases, but emphasized a spirit of collegiality and friendship despite their political differences. Durbin reminded McCain that President Ronald Reagan had raiised the debt ceiling on a number of occasions, as well as passed tax reforms in 1986. McCain countered that Reagan later said he regretted any tax increases, but they had originally been conditioned on spending cuts that never happened.
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