Congressional Sources: Republicans and Democrats Reach Tentative Debt Deal

Jul 30, 2011 10:39pm

ABC News' Jonathan Karl (@JonKarl) reports:

Democratic and Republican Congressional sources involved in the negotiations tell ABC News that a tentative agreement has been reached on the framework of a deal that would give the President a debt ceiling increase of up to $2.4 trillion and guarantee an equal amount of deficit reduction over the next 10 years.

The details are still being worked out, and a senior White House aide tells ABC News, "talks continue but there is no deal to report." 

Congressional leaders plan to brief their members on the framework tomorrow.  The reaction from both parties' rank-and-file will determine whether this tentative deal becomes a final deal.

Here, according to Democratic and Republican sources, are the key elements:

  • A debt ceiling increase of up to $2.1 to $2.4 trillion (depending on the size of the spending cuts agreed to in the final deal).
  • They have now agreed to spending cuts of roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
  • The formation of a special Congressional committee to recommend further deficit reduction of up to $1.6 trillion (whatever it takes to add up to the total of the debt ceiling increase).  This deficit reduction could take the form of spending cuts, tax increases or both.
  • The special committee must make recommendations by late November (before Congress' Thanksgiving recess).
  • If Congress does not approve those cuts by December 23, automatic across-the-board cuts go into effect, including cuts to Defense and Medicare. This "trigger" is designed to force action on the deficit reduction committee's recommendations by making the alternative painful to both Democrats and Republicans.
  • A vote, in both the House and Senate, on a balanced budget amendment.

Democrats won't like the fact that Medicare could be exposed to automatic cuts, but the size of the Medicare cuts is limited and they are designed to be taken from Medicare providers, not beneficiaries.

Two sources briefed on the framework say the automatic cuts would hit Defense spending harder than Medicare.  A Republican briefed on the framework says this will be unacceptable to many Republicans because it could force them to face a choice between accepting tax increases (if that is what the committee recommends) or automatic cuts that would gut the Pentagon's budget.

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