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Debt Limit Goes Down

Tom Williams/Roll Call

"If the Republicans were prepared to work on a bipartisan basis on this issue, which is the only way we really do very tough things that are controversial, then I would be prepared to urge at least half my Members to support the extension of the debt limit, including myself," Minority Whip Steny Hoyer said Monday during his weekly session with reporters. The Maryland Democrat said he would advise lawmakers to "not play this political charade."

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), an outspoken advocate for passing a clean debt limit bill, also blasted Republicans for what he described as a "transparently political ploy" because the measure had no chance of passing.

"This has nothing to do with solving a very serious substantive problem," Welch said. "It has everything to do with political positioning."

Welch rallied more than 110 House Democrats in late April to sign a letter supporting a vote on the debt limit alone. Still, Welch said that while he would vote for a clean debt limit to pass, he was not urging others to do the same.

"Frankly, anyone who asks me, I say, I think, the obvious, 'This is a political bill and not the opportunity that we need and must eventually have to vote on legislation to pay our bills,'" Welch said.

So far, little detail has emerged on how the lawmakers and Obama will come to a final agreement. However, negotiators have said they will exceed $1 trillion in cuts, including reductions for farm subsidies and requiring non-military federal workers to increase their contributions to pensions.

One major sticking point is how to handle entitlements. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) earlier this year produced a budget with significant changes to Medicare, and Republicans have demanded it be used for the basis of the agreement. Democrats, however, have called the plan a nonstarter and have used it in an aggressive public-relations campaign against Republicans for the last several weeks.

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