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Debt Deal Emerging With Rightward Tilt

Tom Williams/Roll Call
Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Center Chairman Charles Schumer (center) said Democrats would continue to push for revenue changes as part of a joint deficit committee that would be created by the emerging debt deal.

President Barack Obama’s rightward lurch to reach a $3 trillion deficit reduction deal with no guarantee of additional revenues had liberals fuming and Republicans all but declaring victory Sunday afternoon.

With time running out to reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling before Tuesday’s default deadline, Obama moved dramatically in the direction of the GOP, according to Senators and aides in both parties.

As details trickled out Sunday, the deal framework appeared to give Republicans most of what they were seeking — with about $3 trillion in guaranteed spending cuts but no tax increases, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Sunday.

“We are going to deal with this problem the American people sent us here to deal with, which is that the government has been spending too much,” the Kentucky Republican said on CNN.

In return, Obama, whose poll numbers are at all-time lows, gets to avoid another debt ceiling battle before voters head to polls in November 2012, and he will be able to argue that he was willing to compromise to help save the country from a default crisis.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also signed off on the deal late Sunday afternoon, “pending caucus approval,” said his spokesman, Adam Jentleson.

But first, the president and Democratic leaders could face a backlash from liberals angry that they appear to have agreed to a revenue-free debt ceiling bill that includes a “trigger” only for automatic cuts in defense, Medicare and other programs if a second deficit reduction package isn’t enacted by the end of this year.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said early reports of the new deal appeared to be “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.” The Missouri Democrat said the CBC hadn’t yet made a formal declaration that the group would oppose it, “but this is a shady bill.”

“This deal trades people’s livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” ripped Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, before House Democrats had even been briefed. “The lesson today is that Republicans can hold their breath long enough to get what they want.”

For weeks, liberals have feared that Obama would give in to Republican demands for trillions in spending cuts without a guarantee of “sacrifice” from the wealthy. In a last-ditch effort to stop such a deal, progressive lawmakers amped up their calls that Obama simply ignore the debt ceiling and use the 14th Amendment as a justification.

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