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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.

The White House tried to tamp down the liberal unrest by making it clear that Obama still wants revenue in a final deficit reduction package later this year. That deal would be crafted by a new joint committee, which would be created under the tentative agreement.

National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling said on CNN that Obama would still insist on a balanced package that includes tax reform, and he noted that the president still does not support anything that would cut benefits for seniors without asking the wealthy to sacrifice as well.

But there is no guarantee that Republicans will give an inch on revenues.

One senior House Democratic aide said the deal appeared to be so bad for the Democrats that it might get fewer than 50 votes from their side. That could force Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to corral the vast bulk of the votes from his Conference.

Rep. Kurt Schrader, a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, predicted more optimistically that 80 Democrats would back it.

“While we’re a very diverse Caucus, at the end of the day, we’re not going to put our ideology ahead of the good of the country,” the Oregon Democrat said.

Still, Obama may have some persuading to do in order to get his Democratic colleagues on board.

“I think the president will come in here and sell whatever agreement he comes to,” Schrader predicted.

Selling the package to House Republicans, meanwhile, could be a lot easier given that the deal builds off of Boehner’s own bill. The package that was emerging Sunday afternoon would eliminate the requirement that a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution be passed and sent to the states — but it would include at least a vote on such a proposal in both chambers.

Sen. Carl Levin said the president did not appear to be willing to make the sustained argument that the wealthy pay their fair share but would at least have another chance next year when the Bush tax cuts are set to expire and the nation’s credit rating isn’t on the line.

“The question is how hard he will fight,” the Michigan Democrat said.

Several Senate Democrats appeared resigned to backing a revenue-free deal, even as the details were still being ironed out.

“I think not having revenues is a mistake, but it may be all we can do at this point,” Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said, “I’m not pleased with having it happen this way.” She added she would probably back it “because I think the worst possible thing is for us not to pay our bills.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) also said on CNN that Democrats would still push to have revenue included in a final package to be negotiated later by a new 12-person joint deficit reduction committee. That committee would be empowered to send a package without amendment to the House and Senate floors for up-or-down votes by Thanksgiving.

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