House to vote on GOP debt plan

As the Aug. 2 deadline fast approaches for the U.S. government, Whit Johnson reports on the ongoing debate between Republicans and Democrats on how to reduce the nation's deficit.

Updated at 10:55 a.m. ET

With few other options on the table, House Republicans today plan to vote on a deficit reduction plan that would require passing a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget -- a plan that has essentially no chance of becoming law.

The House today will debate the GOP "cut, cap and balance" plan, with a vote likely to take place in the evening, even though President Obama issued a veto threat against the bill yesterday.

That makes it more likely a separate, "last ditch" effort from Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could be the path Mr. Obama and lawmakers choose to raise the debt ceiling and avoid the first ever U.S. default. Other lawmakers are also working on alternative plans to reduce the deficit.

The House Republican proposal would allow the government to raise the legal U.S. borrowing limit by $2.4 trillion, but it would also make huge spending cuts -- as much as $111 billion in 2012 alone, which would certainly slow the economy in the short-term. The vote would be mostly symbolic, as any spending cuts would be contingent on the passage of a balanced budget amendment, which requires approval from two-thirds of both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

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At a press conference this morning, House Speaker John Boehner rejected the notion that passing a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget is infeasible. He pointed out that Congress came close to doing so in 1997.

"In the current environment, anything's possible," he said. "I'm not going to give up hope on 'cut, cap and balance."

Boehner released a web video today blaming Mr. Obama for pre-emptively killing the plan with his veto threat.

"While the House once again acts responsibly, the administration still won't present a plan or even say what cuts it's willing to make to end Washington's spending binge and the economic uncertainty that it's creating," he says in the video. "This unfortunate veto threat should make clear that the issue is not congressional inaction, but rather the president's unwillingness to cut spending and restrain the future growth of our government."

To drive home that message, a group of House Republicans, mostly freshmen, will hold a press conference outside of the White House this morning, where they plan to present a letter to Mr. Obama asking him for his specific deficit reduction plans.

"Because you have not presented any written detailed proposal to raise the debt ceiling, our constituents are left in the dark as to what specific cuts you propose as well as what taxes you are planning to raise," the members wrote in the letter to Mr. Obama, which was co-signed by 64 other congressmen.

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For his part, Mr. Obama says he is still advocating for a large deal that reduces the deficit by as much as $4 trillion. The White House has billed the House GOP plan "duck, dodge and dismantle," and laid out their arguments against it in a White House blog post this morning.

"It is critical that we not bring down our deficits and debt at the expense of economic growth, innovation and job creation, or place the greatest burden on older Americans and the most vulnerable. That is precisely what the House's Cut, Cap and Balance plan would do," wrote Jason Furman, the principal deputy director of the National Economic Council.

Meanwhile, as Republicans plan to gather outside the White House this morning, so do government workers and members of Congress who oppose certain spending cuts that are on the table. The lunchtime protest is specifically against cuts that would reduce federal employee health care and retirement benefits, as well as cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Mr. Obama doesn't have any public meetings on his schedule related to the debt ceiling, but he will surely stay involved in negotiations today. While the debate seems as intractable as ever, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said yesterday that "Americans should not be concerned" about the U.S. defaulting on its loans.

While Republicans keep up their demands for spending cuts to go along with the debt ceiling increase, House Democrats have released a video reminding them that President Ronald Reagan warned in 1987 that raising the debt ceiling is imperative.

"Congress consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility," Mr. Reagan is heard saying in the video, which excerpts a 1987 presidential radio address. "This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket, instability would occur in financial markets, and the Federal deficit would soar."

In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans are still working on a variety of plans. The Reid and McConnell "back up" plan faces increasing opposition from conservative activist groups.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Monday released a plan to reduce the national deficit by $9 trillion over the next 10 years - although the Republican senator said on Sunday he intends the plan to be more of a guideline for Congress rather than a realistic option in and of itself.

On top of that, Coburn is getting back together with a small group of bipartisan senators that previously worked on deficit reduction, to quietly unveil another plan that would make significant cuts. This plan is said to be modeled after the deficit reduction proposal put forward by Mr. Obama's bipartisan deficit reduction commission, CBS News Capitol Hill producer John Nolen reports.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., one of the senators involved, said it was unclear whether their deficit reduction plan will be part of debt ceiling debate, or simply a plan taken up later down the road.

"We entered into this as a debt reduction exercise, not as an extension of the debt exercise," Conrad said. "So how those two come together or don't, I don't know the answer to that question. Our effort was designed to come up with a package to reduce the debt and that is what we've done."

After sharing their ideas with their Senate colleagues this morning, one of the senators, Republican Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, said they were pleased with the response. "Now we have to figure out the way forward with this, but it does give a real opportunity to make meaningful reductions in spending and a meaningful way forward to address the issue," he said.

Reid on Monday vowed to keep senators in Washington, including weekends, until the two sides come to an agreement.

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