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Senate to talk budget, debt ceiling, Libya

  |   July 5, 2011 at 4:30 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 5 (UPI) -- Democratic senators say they hope U.S. debt-ceiling and budget-deficit talks this week will bring them to a deal acceptable to the White House and Congress.

"The point of it is that the calendar is moving. It's not all politics," Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., tells WAMU-FM, Washington. "It's all about getting a credible plan to deal with the deficit and to extend the debt ceiling. That's what this is about."

The upper house is in session this week after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., canceled its scheduled Independence Day recess in an attempt to reach a deal on raising the $14.3 trillion federal debt ceiling -- something the U.S. Treasury Department says must be done by Aug. 2 or the United States will default.

Republicans say they want more than $2 trillion in spending cuts with no tax increases before they'll agree to increase the debt cap. Democrats say tax increases must be included in any deal.

High-level talks are scheduled throughout the week, including a Senate Democratic caucus meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden Wednesday and another caucus meeting Thursday with the White House economic team, including National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling.

In addition to budget issues, the Senate is expected to vote as early as Thursday on a resolution letting U.S. forces remain in the NATO-led military operation in Libya for up to a year.

"We are going to spend some time ... on the Libyan resolution," Reid told reporters Thursday when he canceled this week's recess, which senators traditionally spend in their home states.

The Libya bill, approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 28, is to come up for a procedural vote Tuesday, followed by a debate and the full Senate vote, aides tell The Washington Post.

Obama has faced criticism from legislators of both parties for his handling of the deepening air war in Libya -- especially what some legislators claim is Obama's disregard of the 1973 War Powers Resolution, limiting presidential authority to commit U.S. troops to armed conflicts without congressional consent.

Obama says he has the authority to continue the military campaign without congressional approval because U.S. involvement falls short of full-blown hostilities. He and other White House officials contend U.S. forces are mostly carrying out support tasks such as intelligence-gathering, surveillance and aerial refueling.

The Senate resolution, as written, rejects this argument, declaring the Libyan conflict does amount to hostilities but still giving Obama authorization to continue it.

The House -- including 70 Democrats -- voted down a similar bill June 24, refusing to give Obama its authorization for the campaign.

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