Congress races to find solution, deal over borrowing limitby Brett Neely, Minnesota Public Radio
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Without a legislative deal over raising the nation's borrowing limit and a long-term plan to deal with budget deficits, Republican and Democratic negotiators are racing to meet an August 2 deadline before the federal government runs out of cash.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is placed in an awkward position in these negotiations. They'll have to vote on any agreement.
But the GOP-controlled House has been in the driver's seat for much of the negotiations with the Obama Administration.
Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said she and colleagues from both parties have informally discussed ways to devise a long-term plan to cut the deficit so that Republicans will grant a debt-ceiling increase.
With House Republicans divided between those who want a deal and those who stand against raising the debt limit, Klobuchar believes her chamber is ready to step in.
"I believe that there is a strong possibility we'll get something done and that it will probably start in the Senate," Klobuchar said.
Already, one emerging plan comes from Senate Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and is getting attention from both sides of the aisle.
It's a complicated — some even call it cunning — plan to raise the debt limit in a manner that allows Republicans from both chambers avoid having to vote for it.
Both Klobuchar and fellow Minnesota Sen. Al Franken say they're pleased at least some Republicans are willing to raise the debt limit to prevent a federal default.
But Franken said he's concerned about some of the proposals on the table, including cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.
"I think we do have to move our budget toward balance, but we have to do it in a balanced way," Franken said. "And I don't think that taking it out of the hide of poor kids who are sick, or seniors who are in nursing care is the way to do it.
Klobuchar agreed, and said she'd prefer to avoid making cuts that hurt low-income people and seniors enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare.
Instead, she would prefer to cut big corporate tax breaks — especially for the oil industry — rather than cuts that hit the poor and the middle class.
There's one very popular tax break that Klobuchar does think should be changed — the home mortgage interest deduction. She'd like to limit the tax break to the first $500,000 of a mortgage.
"That way if someone bought a million dollar home, they could still get it up to $500,000 in value," Klobbuchar said. "That brings in tens of billions of dollars every single year."
As time ticks down to the August 2 deadline, Klobuchar said there's a major obstacle to getting a deal done: the Senate's rules of order.
"One of the things that people don't understand is that the Senate can't just go up to August 1st. Because of the way our rules are, we need a week," Klobuchar said.
That means a deal needs to be made by the end of next week in order for the Senate to have time to debate. No talks are planned for this weekend. Franken said he may have to hold his nose to vote for any deal that is struck.
"I'm not drawing any lines in the sand because it's obviously crucial that we have to raise the debt ceiling," Franken said.