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House passes balanced budget act

House passes balanced budget act
United States Vice President Joe Biden looks back at the photographers after U.S. President Barack Obama (not pictured) kidded him that the Vice President never gets photographed because he sits at the opposite side of the table during a photo-op with bipartisan Congressional Leadership in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. prior to a meeting to discuss the ongoing efforts to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction. UPI/Ron Sachs/Pool | License Photo

WASHINGTON, July 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. House voted Tuesday in favor of a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget.

The vote was 234-190 in favor of the "Cut, Cap and Balance Act," a measure President Barack Obama said he will veto if it reaches his desk -- which analysts consider highly unlikely since the Senate, controlled by Democrats, is not expected to pass the bill.

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"Were in the 11th hour, and we don't have a lot more time left," Obama said Tuesday. "We don't have any more time to engage in symbolic gestures.

"But I understand the need for [House Republicans] to test that proposition."

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Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said an alternative approach to solving the federal debt issue will be required, The Washington Post reported. Boehner told reporters following the vote the House should consider an alternative proposal for raising the federal debt limit, to head off possible disaster for the economy if the United States should default on its obligations.

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Obama urged congressional leaders "to start talking turkey and actually getting down to the hard business of crafting a plan that can move this forward in time for the Aug. 2 deadline."

The White House has said all sides need to reach a deficit-reduction deal by Friday to give Congress time to vote on raising the government's $14.3 trillion borrowing limit by Aug. 2. That is when Treasury Department officials say without more borrowing authority, the government will run out of cash to pay its bills, with possibly catastrophic effects on financial markets and the economy.

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White House and top congressional leaders have drawn up a proposed timeline for getting a debt-limit bill passed by both houses in time.

The timeline calls for the Senate to unveil its bipartisan plan this week and begin considering it Saturday, the Post reported.

The Senate could pass the plan by July 29, giving the House four days to consider whether to approve the plan before Aug. 2, the Post said.

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A $3.7 trillion bipartisan deficit-reduction plan supported by the so-called Gang of Six U.S. senators will not be ready in time for a vote on the debt ceiling, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Tuesday.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told The Hill he has asked another member of the gang, Sen. Mark Warner D-Va., to identity those parts of the plan that can be included in a bill that would increase the debt ceiling by Aug. 2. That was after Durbin, the Democratic whip, said the entire proposal can't meet the deadline, because it has not been presented to the Congressional Budget Office.

"The 'Gang of Six' plan has not been drafted nor has it been scored by the CBO -- it's not ready for prime time," Durbin said. "But as a concept, I think we have the starting concepts together, and that's what we presented today.

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The "Gang of Six" proposal, similar to one offered in December by a panel led by Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, gained new life Tuesday as Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., rejoined the group after an earlier walkout, Politico reported.

The other "gang" members are Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho.

The proposal would slash spending by $500 billion immediately, overhaul entitlement programs such as Medicare, rework the tax code, and make major changes in Social Security to keep it solvent for 75 years, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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House Republicans vow to oppose any measure that raise taxes. The plan would bring in $1 trillion in new revenue over a decade by limiting several tax breaks, but Conrad said it would also lower tax rates and end the alternative minimum tax.

Conrad said the overall plan uses 74 percent spending cuts and 26 percent new taxes to close the gap.

Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Ind-Conn., was among the many senators praising the plan after a meeting with the "Gang of Six" Tuesday.

"We've gone from a 'Gang of Six' to a mob of 50," Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., told the Post.

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