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08.02.11

Go Time for Debt Deal

The bipartisan compromise may have been derided as a 'sugar-coated Satan sandwich,' but it's headed to the Senate for a noon vote. Get details of the bill's House passage.

Now that the House has passed the debt-ceiling deal with a 269–161 tally, the Senate has scheduled a vote on the same legislation for noon on Tuesday. Capitol watchers expect the bill to pass easily. In the House, 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats supported the deal, while 66 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted against it. If the bill were to pass the Senate, it would be sent to President Obama later in the day, and the Treasury would immediately gain $400 billion in additional borrowing authority before the midnight deadline on default.

Debt Deal Passes House

7:25 P.M. by Daniel Stone and Jill Lawrence

In a cliffhanger vote that took Congress halfway to saving America from defaulting on its debts, the House on Monday evening narrowly approved a deal to cut spending and raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

Scores of House members on the right and the left were angry and frustrated by the compromise plan struck between congressional leaders and the White House. One Democrat, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, even derided the deal as a “sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”

But in the end, many from both parties rallied late in the day to offer support, from Tea Party favorites like Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C. and Allen West, R-Fla., to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And the House passed the bill 269-161 with several Democrats joining majority Republicans.

And in a moment of surprise that pierced the months of bickering, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., entered the House floor to applause as she unexpectedly appeared on the House floor to vote, her first appearance in the chamber since she was shot in January in Tucson by a would-be assassin.

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Debt Deal Cliffhanger

6:15 P.M. By Daniel Stone and Jill Lawrence

Members from both parties rallied late in the day to support the compromise plan struck between congressional leaders and the White House, from Tea Party favorites like Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan predicted the legislation would pass with support from a majority of Republicans and many Democrats.

If the House approves the deal, a final vote would be held Tuesday in the Senate, and the legislation would reach President Barack Obama’s desk to be signed in time to avoid a default on U.S. debt.

The votes were preceded by a frenzied sales effort by leaders in both parties, who acknowledged the plan wasn’t perfect, but insisted it was the best possible solution given the impending deadline. The compromise would cut spending over the next decade by about $1 trillion immediately and name a special committee of Congress to identify an addition $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion in additional cuts by the end of the year. It also would raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which was set to hit its ceiling on Tuesday.

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Budget Office: Deal Would Trim Deficit by $2.1 Trillion

2:15 P.M. By John Solomon

The official budget scorekeeper for Congress concluded Monday that the deal struck between the White House and Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit would trim less from deficits over the next decade than negotiators had hoped.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated the savings over 10 years at between $2.1 trillion and $2.3 trillion, quite a bit less than the $3 trillion goal Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell mentioned early Sunday or the $2.5 trillion figure thrown around when the deal was announced Sunday night.

The estimates are based on the spending caps and assumptions in the current plan but those could change in phase two of the deal when a special committee of 12 members of Congress—evenly split between Republicans and Democrats—gets to work on identifying more spending cuts.

The estimate was an important step before Congress could vote on the plan. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the current plan was for the House to vote first, followed by the Senate. Both votes were expected to be held after the markets closed Monday afternoon.

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Bachmann: Voting ‘No’ Isn’t Extreme

12:45 PM. By Lois Romano

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Rep. Michele Bachmann (Brett Flashnick / AP Photo)

Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R-MN), cut short an Iowa presidential campaign swing Monday to rush back to Washington in order to vote “no” on the debt deal struck between President Obama and congressional leaders.

“I am with real Americans that are telling us what they want us to do." People are very upset about this debt ceiling being raised,” she said in an interview with Newsweek and The Daily Beast. “It’s not extreme to say no to this level of spending.”

Bachmann’s opposition is no surprise. She was one of 22 Republicans who voted against the plan put forth by House Speaker John Boehner on Saturday.

Bachmann’s presidential hopes have soared in Iowa in recent weeks as she leads the GOP primary pack in polls heading into the Iowa Straw Poll on Aug. 13, the first big nonbinding test of the 2012 race.

Midwest voters—hit hard by the economic downturn—are responding to her call for less federal intrusion and spending.

“How many of you here think we should raise the debt ceiling? You don't want to give politicians more money?” she bellowed to a crowd of largely Iowa seniors Sunday.

They responded on cue with a resounding “no.”

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2012 Candidates Weigh In

11:45 A.M. By Jill Lawrence

It’s a great position to be running for president without having to actually be the president. It gives you plenty of opportunity to play armchair quarterback, and that is what the 2012 GOP hopefuls were doing in the hours after a debt deal was struck in Washington.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that if he were president, he would have produced "a budget that was cut, capped, and balancednot one that opens the door to higher taxes and puts defense cuts on the table." He blamed "President Obama's leadership failure" for pushing the economy to the brink "at the 11th hour and 59th minute." Romney said he appreciates the difficult choice before Republican members of Congress, but "I personally cannot support this deal."

Alex Conant, a spokesman for former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, called the deal "nothing to celebrate." “Only in Washington would the political class think it’s a victory when the government narrowly avoids default, agrees to go further into debt, and does little to reform a spending system that cannot be sustained by our children and grandchildren," Conant said in an email. "While no further evidence was needed, this entire debt-ceiling fiasco demonstrates that President Obama must be replaced.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of the candidates who gets an actual say on this debt deal because she will vote on it in the House, led the charge against the deal Sunday night, saying it spends too much and doesn't cut enough. Addressing Obama in her statement, she said, "It was you that got us into this mess, and it was you who wanted a $2.4 trillion blank check to get you through the election. Everywhere I travel across the country, Americans want less spending, lower taxes to create jobs, and they don't want us to raise the debt ceiling."

In contrast, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman went on record in favor of the compromise. In keeping with the newly aggressive turn his campaign has taken, he also took the opportunity to criticize his rivals.

"While some of my opponents ducked the debate entirely, others would have allowed the nation to slide into default, and President Obama refused to offer any plan, I have been proud to stand with congressional Republicans working for these needed and historic cuts. A debt crisis like this is a time for leadership, not a time for waiting to see which way the political winds blow," Huntsman said in a statement. He pledged to stay involved pushing for "real cuts, entitlement, and revenue-neutral tax reformswithout any tax hikes" as a bipartisan congressional committee works on the next phase of deficit reduction.

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Senate Passage Looks Good

11:25 A.M. By John Solomon

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sounded optimistic Monday morning that his chamber would garner the necessary 60 votes to overcome any filibusters and get the package passed as early as Monday evening. “We did send a message to the world and to the American people that our great democracy is working, as difficult and hard as it is,” Reid told colleagues as he opened the Senate for debate on the package.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Evan Vucci / AP Photo)

Prospects in the House were murkier. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave a lukewarm reception and made clear she wasn’t sure how many Democratic votes she could deliver. Meanwhile, some prominent Tea Party favorites on the Republican side, including presidential candidate Michele Bachmann and Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), a frequent presence on TV, made clear they would vote against the package.

In the absence of a strong commitment from Pelosi, the White House was sending Vice President Joe Biden to Capitol Hill to twist arms on both sides of the aisle. House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and former House Banking Committee chairman Barney Frank also threw their support behind the plan in hopes of swaying more of their colleagues.