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Senate debate on debt limit to begin Wednesday, aide says

Updated 6:03 p.m.
By Lori Montgomery
The Senate will open debate Wednesday -- as expected -- on a plan to raise the nation's debt limit, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday afternoon.

Spokesman Jim Manley had said earlier Tuesday that the Senate would put off that debate until at least next week, while leaders tried to assemble the votes for passage, but hours later he said he had been mistaken and that the debate would proceed as scheduled. The Senate is not likely to vote on the contentious proposal until next week.

The effort to boost the legal ceiling for borrowing above $13 trillion has been complicated by Tuesday's special election in Massachusetts, which could deliver Republicans a 41st vote in the Senate. Democrats already needed the vote of a Republican, Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, to raise the ceiling to $12.4 trillion on Christmas Eve. This time, Democrats are hoping for a larger increase that will see the Treasury through this fall's congressional elections, so lawmakers don't have to confront the contentious matter again before facing voters.

A bloc of Senate moderates, however, is threatening to block a substantial increase unless Washington creates an independent budget commission to draft a plan to dig the nation out of debt. Leaders of that faction acknowledge that they do not have the votes to push a commission through the Senate as an amendment to the debt limit increase.

For weeks, Vice President Biden has been hosting talks to try to work out an alternative. The group was scheduled to meet again late Tuesday.

A participant in those talks, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said discussion is focused on a fallback strategy under which President Obama would create a commission by executive order. That idea has so far failed to satisfy the moderates, however, who argue that a presidentially appointed commission would lack the power to force Congress to adopt its recommendations.

"It's a fraud among anyone interested in fiscal responsibility to claim an executive order could structure something that would actually lead to action," said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), one of those urging the creation of such a commisison.

Voinovich also met Tuesday with Obama at the White House.

The current rate of federal spending will require lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling by mid-February.

By Lori Montgomery  |  January 19, 2010; 4:00 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Economy  
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To the sanctimonious Republicans on this blog, you have voted time and time again to increase the limits for Regan, Bush I, and Bush II. Please no preaching about fiscal responsibility. You hypocrites make me sick. Let us be honest truth tellers, you both spend spend and spend. Republicans for unfunded tax cuts benefiting the rich with no cuts in spending and Democrats for their union and broke buddies.

Posted by: gvelanis | January 19, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Somebody should tell these clowns that the goal of government is to make hard choices, not to just approve ALL spending as necessary.

The challenge is to strike a balance, not to spend us into oblivion.

Posted by: postfan1 | January 19, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

The problem with TEAM OBAMA is that they only know how to SPEND TAX DOLLARS. They have NO CLUE as to how MONEY IS MADE!! As a result of their actions, they do not seem to want to learn!!

Posted by: wheeljc | January 19, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

All talk and no action just like so many other Senators. They should be forced to address this contentious decision closer to November when it'll be a bit fresher in voters minds. Get a binding commission in there and let's start having some accountability. I don't run my household this way and I'm sick of an ever increasing amount of my money going to the Feds when they do little to control costs when push comes to shove.

I'm not talking about dissolving SS or Medicare either. Sensible cuts to out humongous defense budget and moderate cuts in SS and Medicare. Also no more raiding of the entitlement funds to make it look like the budget is only as bad as we advertise. It's actually worse if we didn't rob taxpayers of their contributions to these two programs.

It's been illegal to do so since the 80's but nobody in Congress has had the balls to call it out.

Posted by: theobserver4 | January 19, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I would rather that the Senate get together and figure out a way to reduce our spending. Our government has mismanaged (under both parties)our money. They have allowed it to be fraudulently and wastefully spent. The last thing we need is to increase our debt.

Posted by: rcc_2000 | January 19, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

All of a sudden Harry the horse's asp Reid is getting nervous. Reid will be ousted from the Senate in 9-/12 months from now.

Posted by: screwjob2 | January 19, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

My bootblack, Sean O'Reilly, says, as a tribute to Senator Kennedy, the Senators want to raise the debt ceiling even more once they're assured of Ms Coakley's victory.

Posted by: HassanAliAl-Hadoodi | January 19, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

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