Harry Reid Supports Debt Ceiling Compromise; Defense Cuts a Sticking Point

Jul 31, 2011 5:44pm

ABC News' Jonathan Karl (@jonkarl) reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s spokesman says the majority leader has signed off on the debt-ceiling agreement “pending caucus approval,” but there’s nothing yet from Republicans. 

So, what’s the delay?

There’s one last bone of contention. 

Republicans are objecting to the amount of defense spending cuts in the first year of the deal.  This has nothing to do with the trigger — if further spending cuts are not enacted by Congress next year, the deal would mandate they occur. This disagreement has to do with how much of next year’s cuts will apply to defense. 

Reid is trying to put pressure on House Speaker John Boehner to give in on this last point by saying that everybody is now on board –- except for the Speaker.

We’ll see … but this is a relatively minor point: The total cuts in next year’s budget about to much less than $100 billion and the defense cuts now are limited to no more than 3 percent of those cuts. 

One key vote in the Senate is Joe Lieberman, the independent Democrat from Connecticut who often sides with Republicans on defense issues. Lieberman publicly expressed his concern about the defense cuts in a statement Sunday evening.

“Senator Lieberman has indicated that our debt crisis is so severe that all parts of the federal government have to cut spending, and that includes Defense," Lieberman spokesman Marshall Whittmann said in a written statement. " But, he also strongly believes that protecting the security of the American people is the first responsibility of American government, and that means that any cuts to defense must be fair, limited, and mindful of the fact that we live in a very dangerous world.  For these reasons, Senator Lieberman is very concerned about rumors that the debt agreement now being negotiated will disproportionately cut defense spending and result in unacceptably high risk to our national security.”

Moderates like Lieberman don't like the defense cuts and at least one senate liberal, independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has said he will not support the bill because it relies soley on spending cuts and does not raise taxes to maintain government services.

Will liberals in Congress sign off on the debt deal?  Not Senator Bernie Sanders. He says the deal is "grotesquely immoral". It is quite a statement. And Sanders will not be the only liberal to object to spending cuts without tax increases:

“I cannot support legislation like the Reid proposal which balances the budget on the backs of struggling Americans while not requiring one penny of sacrifice from the wealthiest people in our country.  That is not only grotesquely immoral, it is bad economic policy," said Sanders in a statement.

Read more about the framework for a debt ceiling agreement.

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