America

House Passes 'Cut, Cap And Balance' Bill

In a 234-190 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Cap, Cut and Balance Act of 2011" crafted by House Republicans. The bill, which bars any increase in the debt ceiling unless Congress first sends a balanced budget amendment to the states for ratification, calls for a $1.5 trillion cut in this year's deficit and caps federal spending to 24 percent of the gross domestic product.

The bill is unlikely to become law, because it now moves to the Democratic-controlled Senate. As It's All Politics reported, yesterday, the White House also threatened to veto the bill if it ever made it to the president's desk.

During debate on the floor, Democrats said H.R. 2560 essentially meant an end to Medicare, while Republicans said the status quo would end Medicare. Democrats said H.R. 2560 was a politically motivated piece of legislation that hits the middle class hardest because it would dismantle Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, while Republicans said the bill calls for a flat tax code in which every American pays an equal percentage of taxes and puts the country on a path to fiscal responsibility.

As CNN put it in a story before the bill was passed by the House, the vote leaves the debate about raising the debt ceiling exactly where it was before it was approved: "unresolved."

Update at 8:56 p.m. ET. Assessing The Plan B's:

We've touched on them throughout the day, but it's worth noting, here, that there are a couple of alternate plans that would bring the debt ceiling negotiations to an end before the Aug. 2 default deadline:

— Earlier we wrote about, the proposal presented today by the bi-partisan group of Senators called "The Gang Of Six." The proposal, which received the president's approval, would cut the deficit by "by more than $4 trillion over the next ten years and it accomplishes those savings by closing loop holes in the tax code and by cutting spending, including a repeal of a program called CLASS, which was included in last year's health care reform law." On All Things Considered, today, Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) said it was a proposal House Republicans, who have been opposed to any tax increases, could get behind.

— There's also the plan Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced, which would allow President Obama to singlehandedly raise the debt ceiling, while giving Congress political cover. Frank James at It's All Politics writes a bit about that option. The Washington Post reports that in negotiations with Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) the plan would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for "$1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years."

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