The U.S. Senate Thursday began debating a bill from the House that would tie an increase in the federal debt ceiling to a Constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget.
Along with the balanced budget amendment requirement, the legislation, known as the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act," would cut government spending by $111 billion in fiscal 2012 and cap spending at 22.5 percent of GDP next year. The cap on spending would gradually drop to 19.9 percent of GDP in 2021.
Many experts say the balanced budget amendment would require dramatic cuts to spending both in discretionary funds and entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.
The House voted 234 to 190 to advance the measure, which would also increase the federal debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, with nine Republicans voting against it and five Democrats supporting it.
However, President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the measure in the unlikely event that it passes the Senate to reach his desk.
The White House claimed that the bill is inconsistent with Obama's "responsible framework to restore fiscal responsibility and is not an appropriate method of reducing the Nation's deficits and debt."
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., called the Senate debate on the bill an opportunity for Senators to go on record either in support of balancing the budget or against it.
"Cut, Cap, and Balance cuts spending now, caps it in the future, and only raises the debt limit if it's accompanied by a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget," McConnell said. "This is what America wants. It's what Washington needs."
He added, "The White House has called for a balanced approach in this debate. This bill doesn't just suggest balance. It mandates it."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the other hand, claimed that the bill would "decimate Social Security, Medicare and every other federal benefit while protecting hundreds of billions of dollars in special interest tax breaks."
Reid added that the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act" is not a "serious plan" and said that it does not "have one chance in a million of passing the Senate."
The Senate is expected to vote on bill by Saturday, but the plan is not expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled chamber.
by RTT Staff Writer
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