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Senate Kills Debt Bill, Bipartisan Talks on Hold

Tom Williams/Roll Call

Updated: 11:02 p.m.

The Senate voted 59-41 to kill Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) debt limit package Friday night, and Majority Leader Harry Reid moved forward with a new version of his own bill after efforts to reach a bipartisan deal failed.

The Nevada Democrat's latest bill adopts Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's Plan B language to let President Barack Obama raise the debt ceiling in stages and effectively take the threat of default off the table until 2013. Reid said he was prepared to compromise further he said earlier Friday that he is willing to bring up a constitutional balanced budget amendment for a vote, for example but that he had no one to negotiate with.

McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to negotiate all day before the House vote to pass Boehner's bill, Reid said, and again refused in a phone call after the House voted.

"If they don't like it, what do they want as an alternative?" Reid asked.

Democrats say two pieces of the Boehner bill the potential for another default crisis in six months and a requirement for passage of a balanced budget amendment are nonstarters.

Reid's bill mirrors many other aspects of Boehner's measure and would cut the deficit by about $2.2 trillion, according to an earlier estimate by the Congressional Budget Office.

Democrats said they were willing to look at adding triggers to ensure future deficit reduction if a bipartisan deficit reduction committee that is included in both bills fails to produce a result. However, Reid said Republicans have repeatedly refused to compromise on the issue.

"We've got a closet full of triggers," he said. But, he added, "I came to the conclusion that we are negotiating with ourselves. The Republicans will not agree to any triggers that have any revenues in it."

And Reid noted that Democrats have drawn a line in the sand against any cuts to entitlement programs without revenue.

"No one in three weeks has found a way to solve the trigger dilemma," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

A cloture vote on Reid's bill is expected around 1 a.m. Sunday, after Reid rejected an unusual offer from McConnell to hold a vote on the Reid plan Friday night as well.

McConnell made the offer on the Senate floor, saying, "Every single member of my Conference would be happy to move that vote up."

Reid countered that he would be happy to do so if McConnell would agree to let simple majority rule.

McConnell's offer was essentially to short-circuit the time-consuming procedure needed to overcome an attempted filibuster, or limit debate on a measure. Sixty votes are needed to invoke cloture, as the process is known, and Reid doesn't yet appear to have the votes.

McConnell objected to allowing a simple 51-vote margin to carry an issue of this magnitude, while Reid accused the Republican of filibustering the matter with the nation's creditworthiness at stake.

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