Reid approves of debt deal; WH, GOP negotiate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with reporters as he walks across the Capitol on his way to the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as national debt crisis negotiations continue on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sunday, July 31, 2011. AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks with reporters as he walks across the Capitol on his way to the office of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as national debt crisis negotiations continue on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sunday, July 31, 2011.
AP Photo/Harry Hamburg

Just two days before the federal government's Aug. 2 deadline to avoid economic default, lawmakers and White House negotiators are scrambling to hammer out an agreement for raising the debt ceiling.

Late Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he has "signed off on the debt-ceiling agreement pending caucus approval."

Special Section: America's Debt Battle

Just minutes after Senate Republicans voted to block Majority Leader Harry Reid's Democratic bill to raise the nation's borrowing limit on Sunday, lawmakers turned their focus to ongoing negotiations between President Obama and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who are working on a deal that would extend the debt limit through 2012 and cut up to $3 trillion in spending during the next 10 years.

That deal proposes $3 trillion in cuts that would come in two waves. The first wave would include $1 trillion in reductions. A bipartisan "super congressional committee" would then need to determine the second round of cuts by Thanksgiving of 2011. If Congress failed to agree on that second round of cuts, automatic "trigger" cuts would be made.

McConnell said Sunday afternoon that negotiators were "really, really close to an agreement."

CBS News producer Jill Jackson reports that the House GOP caucus is largely hung up on the size of cuts to defense spending in the agreement.

McConnell: "Very close" on deal to avoid default
Schumer on debt deal: Better, but not there yet
Senate GOP blocks Reid debt bill
White House: "We don't have a deal" on debt bill

"We're hopeful and confident it can be done," McConnell said. "As soon as it is done, I'll let my caucus know."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS News that the Democratic caucus won't take up discussing the framework deal until Monday.

Among the key issues likely being debated in negotiations are the "trigger" cuts that would automatically occur in the event of a congressional stalemate over the second round of cuts.

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday, leading Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said those triggers would need to be equally difficult for both parties in order for Democrats to support the plan.

"The key with the trigger is one word: Equality," he told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "It should be equally tough on Democrats and Republicans. The tough part on the Democratic side, if we don't come to an agreement, there will be cuts in programs that we like - helping middle class kids go to college, prescription drugs. On the Republican side, we believe that the trigger should have revenues, potentially, so that they would have to do things they hate like close tax loopholes for oil companies and corporate jets."

He emphasized, though, that "the triggers [are] still being constructed and nothing is done yet."

"There's lots of decisions yet to be made," he told Schieffer. "Reid and Democrats in the Senate have not signed off on this deal. We don't even know what all the details are. So we're not yet ready to try and urge anybody to be for it."

Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said Sunday that while he hadn't yet seen the agreement at hand, it was fair to say the center of gravity appeared to have shifted away from the inclusion of revenue increases.

Revenues are "not at the top of the list right now," he said of the deal, adding that cuts to discretionary spending and entitlements appeared to be the current priorities. He noted, however, that "the list is being negotiated."

Whether or not such a proposal could earn sufficient bipartisan support to pass through both chambers of Congress, however, remains unclear.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said that while she was not "pleased with" the deal-making process underway, she would "most likely" vote for the resulting legislation.

"I'm not pleased with having it happen this way," Feinstein told reporters on Sunday. "As they say, sausage-making is not pretty - but the sausage we have I think is a very different sausage from when we started."

"I most likely am going to vote [for the bill] because I think the worst possible thing is for us not to pay our bills or thumb our nose at the world and push an economy which right now is handcuffed in a very negative flow," Feinstein added.

Some progressive lawmakers, however, have already said they won't support the compromise as is.

"This deal trades peoples' livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it," said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in a statement. "Progressives have been organizing for months to oppose any scheme that cuts Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, and it now seems clear that even these bedrock pillars of the American success story are on the chopping block. Even if this deal were not as bad as it is, this would be enough for me to fight against its passage.

"This deal does not even attempt to strike a balance between more cuts for the working people of America and a fairer contribution from millionaires and corporations," he added. "The very wealthy will continue to receive taxpayer handouts, and corporations will keep their expensive federal giveaways. Meanwhile, millions of families unfairly lose more in this deal than they have already lost. I will not be a part of it."

House Speaker John Boehner told CBS News he would present a framework for the deal to his caucus during an afternoon conference call but said he "didn't know" what he would tell them.

"Depends on getting it tied down," he told Jackson.

When asked if the option of closing tax loopholes and ending subsides for oil companies and corporate jet owners was on the table, Boehner said, "you know better."

A Boehner aide told CBS that House Republicans don't plan to accept that option.

The White House, however, maintains that both sides are generally in agreement on an emerging package that would cut the deficit in two stages - even if getting support for that package required some lawmakers to "get out of their party's comfort zone."

"Well, we don't have a deal," senior White House adviser David Plouffe emphasized Sunday morning. "I think what's clear is that there is general agreement that we're going to have deficit reduction in two stages. The first is going to be something the parties largely agree on, about $1 trillion in deficit reduction. The second stage is going to be the trickier elements of entitlement reform and tax reform, which this 'super committee' is going to be charged with."

"And I think it's going to be incumbent on the leaders in Congress to appoint people to those committees who are going to drive to, yes, to try and compromise, get out of their party's comfort zone," he added.

Reid told reporters that he hoped to hold a vote on the compromise Sunday night.

Comments

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

New Android App

For your Android phone and tablet, download the FREE redesigned app, featuring CBSN, live 24/7 news.

Download
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App