Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he will start floor action on Monday on his own Democratic plan to raise the debt ceiling through 2013 and make $2.7 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years.
That will put the House and Senate in a faceoff, on dueling courses, with just eight days to go to raise the debt ceiling by the August 2 deadline set by the Treasury Department.
Senate Democrats have a 6 p.m. caucus meeting scheduled to discuss their options.
At the same time, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, briefed his conference on his plan for a two-part process to raise the borrowing limit and cut spending. The first phase would include about $1 trillion in cuts, with the ceiling raised through January 2012. According to a GOP source familiar with the framework, Congress would then have to pass deficit cuts recommended by a joint congressional committee before a second debt-ceiling increase could be approved.
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Republican leadership aides claimed that Reid had signed off on that general framework on Sunday, before President Obama rejected it at a White House meeting later that night.
Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson said that contention was “unequivocally and completely false.” The Senate majority leader's aides said the sticking point remained the second debt-ceiling increase. Democrats were willing to accept a framework raising the debt limit in two steps, but only if the second step could occur even if a second round of spending cuts did not become law. Republicans refused that offer, the aides said.
With the House refusing to consider Reid’s new plan and set to vote this week on Boehner’s, Republicans hope to box in Reid and Obama. Senate Democrats have the votes to block Boehner’s plan. But with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., backing the speaker's bill, Democrats may lack votes to amend it and send it back to the House. GOP aides argue that might force the Senate to accept the plan and present Obama with the prospect of vetoing it and risking default. Democrats insist they will not allow that scenario to occur.