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Roll Call

Reid to ‘Tweak’ His Debt Measure

Bill Clark/Roll Call

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Wednesday he will “tweak” his deficit reduction bill to provide at least $200 billion in additional savings — and dismissed a competing bill offered by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

“It is not a solution and it will not pass,” Reid said of Boehner’s bill, which is also getting a face-lift. “Every Democratic Senator will vote against it.”

Sen. Charles Schumer said Boehner is wasting time on a bill that will never pass the Senate or be signed by the president. “The Speaker’s plan is on life support, and it’s time for him to pull the plug,” the New York Democrat said.

Reid said he would add “minor tweaks” to his plan to find the additional savings or spending cuts after a Congressional Budget Office analysis released Wednesday morning found that his bill fell $500 billion short of the $2.7 trillion advertised.

Reid said he would find at least $2.4 trillion in spending cuts, enough for a $2.4 trillion increase in the debt ceiling so that his bill would meet at least the letter of Boehner’s demand for any debt limit increase to be coupled with an equal amount of deficit reduction.

Reid’s $2.4 trillion target is the debt limit increase needed to get the country through the end of 2012 — a key demand of Democrats and President Barack Obama. But Boehner’s bill includes only enough of a debt ceiling hike to last until sometime early next year.

The CBO report was a mixed bag for Reid; while it found his cuts wanting, the CBO said his plan would cut the deficit deeper and faster than Boehner’s bill. The Speaker is also rewriting his measure after getting a CBO score that found him falling short of his deficit reduction goals.

The CBO found that Reid’s plan would slice the deficit by $2.2 trillion over a decade — with more than half of that coming from assumptions that the United States will save money by winding down wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The GOP has ridiculed using that presumed savings as a budget “gimmick.” Democrats note that House Republicans used similar assumptions for the wars in the budget they passed earlier this year.

Still, even without assumed savings from the wars, Reid’s bill cuts significantly more than Boehner’s and does it significantly faster, the CBO analysis showed. Before savings on interest on the debt, the discretionary spending caps in Reid’s plan cut $751 billion over the next decade versus $710 billion in Boehner’s original bill.

And in the first two years, Reid’s bill shrinks the deficit by $129 billion versus $17 billion for Boehner’s plan. Even without the war funding, Reid’s bill would slice the deficit by about $58 billion in the first two years — more than three times Boehner’s savings.

A Boehner spokesman said the CBO report shows Reid’s bill includes “a grab bag of gimmicks” and would include deep defense cuts that would “hurt our men and women in uniform.”

“We have made a promise to cut spending more than we increase the debt limit, and we are revising our legislation to ensure this pledge is met,” the spokesman said.

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