House Republicans and Senate Democrats are pressing competing but broadly similar plans to pair an increase in the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing cap limit with spending cuts and to create a special committee to recommend bigger savings for a vote later this year.
The chief difference is the size of the immediate increase in the debt limit. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s $2.7 trillion debt increase plan would keep the government afloat into 2013, while Republican House Speaker John Boehner’s $900 billion increase would require action next year.
Highlights of the competing plans:
- House GOP: Immediate $900 billion increase in the debt limit; $1.6 trillion more would be made available after enactment of up to $1.8 trillion in future spending cuts.
- Senate Democrats: Immediate $2.7 trillion debt limit increase.
- House GOP: Cuts $756 billion over 10 years from the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies. Caps new spending at $1.043 trillion in 2012, $7 billion below 2011 levels. Total cuts of $917 billion, including interest savings.
- Senate Democrats: Nearly identical caps on agency budgets. Saves $1 trillion more by assuming steep cuts in war funding. Total cuts of $2.2 trillion, including interest savings.
- House GOP: Creates a 12-person, House-Senate bipartisan committee evenly divided between the political parties; charged with producing up to $1.8 trillion in deficit cuts. If a majority of the committee agrees on a plan, it would receive a vote in both the House and the Senate.
- Senate Democrats: Nearly identical provisions. The panel would be instructed to seek deficit cuts sufficient to bring the deficit down to about 3 percent of the size of the economy.
- House GOP: Requires a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution; “program integrity” initiatives aimed at stemming abuses in benefits programs like Social Security; $17 billion in funding for Pell Grants for low-income college students, financed by curbs in student loan subsidies.
- Senate Democrats: Similar Pell Grant provisions and more extensive program integrity initiatives; reduced “direct payments” to farmers; $15 billion in revenues from auctions of electromagnetic spectrum.