No Resolution To Debt Ceiling Crisis In Sight

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The House has passed Speaker John Boehner's debt ceiling bill, while Senate Democrats move ahead on their own plan, which faces lumbering procedural hurdles. The irony, President Obama says, is that "the two parties are not miles apart." He adds that "the time for putting party first is over."

MICHELE NORRIS, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel. An extra day of wrangling, a rewrite and Speaker John Boehner finally has his debt ceiling bill. In fact, it's being voted on right now in the Senate. Late today, his fellow House Republicans approved Boehner's plan to increase the debt limit by $900 billion, enough for just another six months. It would also cut spending by about the same amount over the decade.

In the Senate, the Democrats are in charge and they oppose a short-term fix. As NPR's David Welna reports, they are pushing ahead with a plan of their own.

DAVID WELNA: Speaker John Boehner's debt ceiling plan got 218 votes from his fellow Republicans, 22 other Republicans joined every voting Democrat in opposing the bill. Had four more Republicans broken ranks, the bill would've been defeated. But Boehner changed his plan over night, to win more support from recalcitrant conservatives. He modified its requirement that both chambers of Congress simply vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution to require that they actually pass such an amendment before the debt ceiling could be raised again.

Shortly before the vote, Boehner insisted he'd stuck his neck out a mile, as he put it, trying to agree on a deficit reduction plan with President Obama.

JOHN BOEHNER: But a lot of people in this town can never say yes. A lot of people can never say yes. This House has acted and it is time for the administration and time for our colleagues across the aisle, put something on the table, tell us where you are.


WELNA: The response from Democrats came from Katy Hochul of New York, who recently won a special election. Republicans, she said, have brought the nation to the brink of default.

KATHY HOCHUL: Never in its history has there been an intentional disaster perpetrated by the very people who were sent here to be the caretakers of this country.


WELNA: Meanwhile in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he was ready to bring up his own bill. It's similar to Boehner's except it raises the debt ceiling past next year's elections. Republicans, he noted, have threatened to filibuster the measure.

HARRY REID: No matter how long Republicans delay, the deadline will not move. We have hours - I repeat, hours - to act. That's why, by the end of the day today, I must take action on the Senate's compromise legislation.

WELNA: Reid said if all goes as planned, the final Senate vote on his legislation would take place Tuesday morning, August 2nd, the deadline for raising the debt ceiling. New York Democrat Charles Schumer called on his GOP colleagues to get behind Reid's bill.

CHARLES SCHUMER: Since it will be the last train leaving the station, we expect Senate Republicans to give it a long, careful look. It would be hard to imagine that the Republicans in the Senate would actually filibuster the nation into a default.

WELNA: Both Schumer and Reid implored Republicans to make suggestions that might make Reid's proposal more bipartisan, since Democrats don't have enough votes to move it ahead on their own. They got nothing, though, from Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Our Democratic friends here in the Senate have offered no solutions to this crisis that could pass either chamber. Not one. Instead, all day long yesterday we got chest-thumping comments about how we're going to kill any piece of legislation that comes over from the House, that it's dead on arrival.

WELNA: Today, there was no such chest-thumping, just anxious entreaties for a bipartisan deal to avert default. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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