Schumer on debt deal: Better, but not there yet

(Correction, Aug. 1, 2011: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that a deal on the debt ceiling between Republicans and Democrats called for a second wave of proposed spending cuts due by Thanksgiving 2012. The article has been corrected to show that the congressional committee charged with recommending the cuts has a deadline of Thanksgiving of this year.)

The third most-powerful Democrat in the Senate said Sunday that he felt a "a lot better today" about the prospect of reaching a compromise to raise the debt ceiling although he emphasized that "nothing is done yet" and that "we're not yet ready to try and urge anybody to be for" the plan.

"I feel a lot better today about the ability to avoid default than I did even yesterday morning," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation." "A default would have such disastrous consequences for our nation for decades to come. The fact that the leaders are talking, even if I'm sure hardly anyone agrees with everything they're going to come up with, is a good thing."

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With Tuesday's deadline for avoiding default fastly approaching, Republicans and Democrats are frantically attempting to hammer out a deal that would extend the debt limit through 2012 and cut up to $3 trillion in spending over the next 10 years.

The reductions, according to this plan, would come in two waves. The first wave would include $1 trillion in reductions, and a bipartisan "super congressional committee" would need to determine the second round of cuts by Thanksgiving of 2012. If Congress failed to act on the second round, there would be automatic "trigger" cuts to defense spending and entitlements.

Schumer emphasized, however, that he would not be able to endorse the plan in progress until Democrats were able to take a hard look at the details - particularly in regard to the triggers that would be enacted if the proposed committee was unable to agree on cuts within the specified time frame.

"We haven't even seen it yet," Schumer said of the deal in progress. "(Senate Majority Leader Harry) 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."

"The triggers [are] still being constructed and nothing is done yet," Schumer told CBS' Bob Schieffer. "There's lots of decisions yet to be made."

"There are hundreds of details here, and all of them have to be worked through and obviously it's got to be done very quickly to avoid default, which is the nightmare for everybody," he added.

Schumer emphasized that the triggers would need to be equally difficult for both parties to digest.

"The key with the trigger is one word: Equality," he continued. "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."

Schumer also said that, if the plan were to pass and the bipartisan congressional committee should "come to exist," Democrats would push for the inclusion of revenue increases in the second round of cuts - and fight any benefit cuts to Medicare.

"There's going to be a lot of tough decisions on the committee," Schumer said. "The committee has no restraints on it. We will fight very hard for revenues on that committee, if it should come to exist. But we will, you know, be very adamant that there shouldn't be benefit cuts in Medicare."

Also in the show, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., expressed confidence that the deal to raise the debt ceiling would garner "strong bipartisan support" among lawmakers - though he conceded that some members from both parties would find the compromise "wanting."

"I believe there will be a strong bipartisan support for this," McConnell told Schieffer. "Again, this deal has not been finalized yet, but I think we're very, very close to something that I could comfortably recommend to my members - and I believe the Democratic leadership will be doing the same."

"I'm sure there will be both Democrats and Republicans who in the end find the agreement wanting in one way or another," he said.