NPR logo CBO Says Reid Debt Plan; Like Boehner's, Falls Short Of Goal

CBO Says Reid Debt Plan; Like Boehner's, Falls Short Of Goal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his cellphone as he walks to his office, July 27, 2011. Harry Hamburg/AP hide caption

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Harry Hamburg/AP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his cellphone as he walks to his office, July 27, 2011.

Harry Hamburg/AP

The Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday that Sen. Harry Reid's debt ceiling plan falls short of the kind of deficit reduction the proposal envisions, sending the Senate majority leader back to his numbers crunchers to try and find more savings.

The CBO, a non-partisan heartbreaker of a government agency that estimates for lawmakers what their proposed policies are likely to cost, sort of Washington's version of the Delphic oracle, told Reid that his plan would cut the deficit by $2.2 trillion over a ten year period from 2012 to 2021.

That was $500 billion less than the $2.7 trillion by which Reid's plan would raise the debt ceiling, meaning that Reid would have to find nearly half a trillion dollars more to satisfy Republican demands that there be spending cuts match a debt ceiling increase dollar for dollar.

Still, Democrats were encouraged by the CBO analysis because it bore some good news for them; the plan offered by the Nevada Republican contained $1.3 million more in deficit reduction than the Republican proposal by Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.

In its score of the Boehner plan issued Tuesday evening, the CBO said his proposal would reduce the deficit over ten years by $850 billion. That was less than the $1 trillion over ten years the Speaker predicted for his plan.

That was a blow to Boehner who was having trouble getting enough votes from members of his Republican conference, especially freshmen members who won with Tea Party support, even before the CBO issued its estimate.

Boehner had planned a House floor vote on his plan Wednesday. But after the CBOs bad news, he felt compelled to reschedule the vote for Thursday, giving him added time to find more spending cuts and more House Republican votes.

Perhaps the most critical difference between the Reid and Boehner plans is that Reid's plan would raise the debt ceiling enough so that it wouldn't need to be increased again until after the 2012 general elections.

Boehner's plan, in contrast, would require Congress to pass an increase by the Aug. 2 deadline when the U.S. Treasury runs out of borrowing authority and another debt-ceiling vote next year as election campaigns kicked into higher gear.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel rejected the proposition that the CBO's judgment of the two plans was a significant if relative victory for the Reid plan over Boehner's.

"This report shows the Senate plan for what it is: a grab-bag of gimmicks that gives the President a blank check. In contrast to the bill House Republicans have offered, the Senate Democratic bill counts as 'savings' a trillion dollars in war money that would never have been spent - and on top of that, slashes the defense budget in a manner that would hurt our men and women in uniform in a time of war. It relies on smoke and mirrors for half of its 'savings,' yet still cuts $500 billion less than promised. In reality, the Reid plan would only save taxpayers about $1 trillion while giving the President the largest debt limit increase in history. Despite previous claims, it significantly falls short of the requirement that we cut more than we increase in the debt limit.