GOP and Democrats deadlocked on debt ceiling

In a word: Deadlocked.

President Obama and Congress go back to work today, and one of the big items on their to-do list is a deal to cut the budget deficit and raise the federal debt limit. But CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports there are no talks scheduled between Congressional Republicans and the White House over an agreement to raise the U.S. government's debt ceiling. .

Republicans still refuse to consider any new taxes, and Democrats are just as adamant that a deal needs to include new revenue.

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Congress has raised the debt ceiling 102 times since it was first instituted in 1917, and 10 times in the last decade. But never before have the stakes been so high - or Democrats and Republicans so unwilling to budge.

"Normally what you see in these negotiations is tough stances, but at least some willingness to go - not half-way, but a quarter of the way to where the other side is," said Norman Ornstein, a longtime student of Congress and a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Policy Research.

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The GOP is now united in its opposition to raising the debt ceiling, but in 1983 Republican President Ronald Reagan supported a rise, writing in November 1983 that "the full consequences of a default, or even the serious prospect of default by the United States, are impossible to predict and awesome to contemplate"

Nor have Democrats always been in favor of raising the limit. In 2006 then-Senator Barack Obama voted against an increase - a vote he later admitted was a mistake. But that didn't stop Representative Michelle Bachmann from tweaking him on her recent "Face the Nation" appearance:

"I will say that someone far more eloquent than myself made a very remarkable statement when they said to deal - to even have us at this point where we have to raise the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership. That was Barack Obama, when he was running for the United States presidency. He refused to vote to raise the debt ceiling."

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The Treasury Department says that if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling by August 2, the federal government won't be able to pay its debts - a move that AEI's Ornstein says could send the still-weak economy off the cliff.

"I'm just not so sure this time that we get a deal until after we cross the Rubicon and actually see a breach in the debt limit," Ornstein told CBS News.

There is some talk in Congress of a so-called "mini deal," that would take what's on the table that both sides agree on and extend the debt limit for a year or so. But the White House doesn't like that, says Plante, because they feel any deal like that would cost them leverage.

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Two Senators appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning each spoke optimistically that an agreement could be reached, but not without concessions from the other party.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said there was a growing group of Senate and House Republicans willing to increase the debt ceiling, but only with the imposition of caps on federal spending and a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget, in order to "fix the problem" of federal spending.

"First, we have to institute those spending caps, the fiscal discipline, before we actually start getting the details," Johnson told "Early Show" anchor Chris Wragge. "So, you know, the House has proposed a cut cap and balance: Cut off the baseline the first two years, and then provide a statutory cap to spending to put us on a path toward a balanced budget. And then pass a balanced-budget amendment. I think that's the only way we solve this long-term."

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said that Democrats are willing to make trillions of dollars in cuts to federal spending, but in a "responsible" way, over the next decade.

"I'm very concerned we're not going to be able to meet America's financial obligations," Coons said. "I hope that the Republicans are going to hear us saying 'yes.' Democrats in the Congress are willing to meet them, and to make trillions of dollars in reductions to federal spending.

"The next decade we can cut $4 trillion in federal spending. We can achieve real savings, and we've had plans on the table since March to do it in a bipartisan, responsible way. It's their intransigence, their refusal to consider any increase in revenue that has really stalled the talks so far."

Coons said he would support a "mini-deal" to raise the debt ceiling, but only if it were part of getting agreement on a bigger deal.

"I do think that we can't afford to default on America's financial obligations," Coons said. "What's coming up on August 2, something we've been warned about for months, is the equivalent of defaulting on America's mortgage."

He said recommendations of the bipartisan deficit and debt commission are "the minimum we need to do to put a floor under our economy."

"I'm willing to make significant cuts in domestic spending and entitlement reform," said Coons. "But we need the Republicans to meet us halfway, and be willing to make reductions in Pentagon spending, and tax reform that lowers rates, increases the base, and actually increases federal revenue. We've had a balanced, bipartisan proposal on the table since March in front of our budget committee. We simply need the Republicans to hear us say 'yes.'"

"It sounds to me like we have the basis for a deal here," Johnson said. "Senator Coons is talking about doing something over a long period of time. That's true. That's what a statutory cap bill would do. It would put us on a glide path towards balancing the budget.

"And then let's send a balanced budget to the states. Let's let the people decide if they want to instill the fiscal discipline on ourselves. Let's send it to the states. Let the people decide. I'm happy, I'm happy to let the American people decide this issue."

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