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If this NYT report is accurate, then congressional Democrats, led by the Obama Administration, are lined up for another epic cave in. The Republicans, on the other hand, are looking poised to score yet another big victory. First, the Bush tax cuts extension, then the 2011 spending bill cuts, and now a debt-ceiling deal that would reduce the deficit entirely through cuts to social spending.

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The "Gang of Six" Plan

July 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

It's still unclear just how viable the "Gang of Six" deficit and debt package is. On a logistical level, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] said yesterday that the lack of actual legislative language and an official budget score from the CBO means there might not be enough time to get it through Congress before the August 2th deadline. On a political level, it's unlikely the House would bite. It looks to be basically similar to the Biden plan that House Republican leaders rejected several weeks ago because of the level of revenue raisers involved. Still, there are reaons to take it seriously. It is bipartisan to some extent, public pressure to strike a deal is increasing as the deadline approaches, and ratings agencies are now threatening to downgrade U.S. debt if Congress goes with the other potential compromise on the table, Reid-McConnell. Those factors make it absolutely worth taking a close look.

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The McConnell Debt Plan

July 14, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

At this point we're pretty much all aware that raising the debt ceiling is nothing new. Democrats do it and Republicans do it. It's been done 9 times in the past decade, and corralling the votes to pass the increases each time has been treated as a burden of the majority. The unique problem this time around is that Congress is split between the parties and it's not clear who the majority is. But regardless of the politics of the situation, it's something that pretty much everyone in Congress agrees must be done. And that's the reality that Senate Minority Leader Micth McConnell's [R, KY] plan, which seems to be the leading proposal right now, reflects.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

May 16, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After all the non-serious legislating the House of Representatives accomplished last week -- by that I mean passing bills that were designed purely for politics, not affecting policy -- they decided to just stay home this week. The House is taking their third week of vacation time in the past five weeks, and when they come back into session again they'll be there for just one week before going on vacation again Meanwhile, the debt ceiling has officially been surpassed. The federal government is now borrowing more money to execute the laws than the amount Congress has allowed it to borrow. The Treasury Department says they have a couple months worth of stalling tactics to make sure we don't actually default. But if Congress doesn't get to Washington and figure out a way to pass a debt ceiling increase soon, we risk defaulting on our international financial obligations and destroying our creditworthiness for decades to comes.

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The Budget Nobody Noticed

May 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As Congress resumes working on the 2012 budget, almost all of the discussion will be on striking a deal between the President's proposal and the House Republicans' proposal. But there is another budget proposal in Congress that would do far more than either of those for eliminating deficits, reducing the debt and ensuring solvency of our entitlement programs. The Progressive Caucus' "People's Budget" would produce budget surpluses by 2021 -- the GOP budget would still be producingannual deficits of more than $400 billion at that point -- and would add more than $2 trillion less to the debt than the GOP plan over the ten year period. How would it work? By doing things most members of Congress are afraid to go anywhere near, like raising tax rates for the rich and making major cuts to the military budget.

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Why Congress is Even Voting on the Debt Limit

April 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

From 1979 to 2011 the House of Representatives had a rule in place, for most years, that allowed them to automatically endorse an increase in the debt limit without having to actually go through the motions of introducing a bill and voting on it. The rule, known as the "Gepardt Rule," made it possible for the House to order the Clerk to print up an engrossed debt limit resolution and send it to the Senate once they have passed a budget. It's why last year's bill to increase the debt limit (H.J.Res.45) had no sponsor. This session, however, the Republicans eliminated the Gephardt Rule in the rules package they passed day one. For the first time since the government shutdown of 1995, the House has no rule for automatic debt limit increase endorsement during a period in which a debt limit increase is necessary to avoid default.

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Last Week's Debt Ceiling Vote

April 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess, raising the debt ceiling to accommodate necessary borrowing will be on the top of the agenda. It's estimated that the current $14.3 trillion limit is going to be surpassed in mid-May, and if Congress does not pass an increase in the limit by then the Treasury will have to begin withholding federal payments or default on its intergovernmental obligations. Republicans in the House are threatening to vote down an increase if their spending demands are not met. However, they (all but four of them) have already gone down on the record in favor of increasing the debt limit -- by $2 trillion next year and by nearly $9 trillion over the next decade.

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With the giant Defense budget, the tax-cut extensions, the bailouts, and the lack of tax reciepts from the economic crisis, the ceiling on our national debt is going to have to be increased, by the end of March according to Tim Geithner, if we are to avoid defaulting on our debt and destroying whatever modicum of creditworthiness we have left in the international community.

Voting to raise the debt ceiling is always unpopular, and its must-pass nature makes it a perfect tool for the minority party to force the majority to register an unpopular vote. Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2] admitted as much last year, arguing that the unpopular debt ceiling vote was not his party's responsibility. "That is the burden of the majority," he said.

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Telling It Like It Is

February 4, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

The House today voted to increase the federal debt ceiling (H.J.Res.45). All Republicans voted "no," despite providing the bulk of the votes for the seven times Congress held similar votes under Bush.

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Senate Republicans today voted in lock step against a bill to raise the federal debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion. But they haven't always been against raising the debt limit. In fact, on most of the votes in recent history to raise the debt limit, the Republicans provided a majority of the votes.

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The Week Ahead in Congress

January 24, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

Still no path forward for health care reform. House Democrats have a light legislative schedule this week, and they will hear Obama's State of the Union address on Wednesday. The Senate's going to be voting on a slate of controversial deficit amendments and on confirming Fed Chief Ben Bernanke to another term.

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When the Senate takes their vote in January to raise the limit on the national debt by $1.5 trillion, Senate Republicans will be allowed to hold votes on four politically sensitive amendments that will put Democrats on the spot on spending issues.

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Time to Face the Deficit

December 10, 2009 - by Donny Shaw

The financial collapse, the Wall Street bailout and the two wars we have been fighting for the past seven years have brought the federal deficit to a record high. In order to keep the country from defaulting and to accommodate a new jobs bill to stem off a growing unemployment problem, Congress is now upping the amount they plan to increase the public debt ceiling by.

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