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Senate Rejects GOP's Cut, Cap & Balance Debt Plan

WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 05: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) listens as Sen. Dick Durbin answers questions on the progress of the economic stimulus pacakge at the U.S. Capitol February 5, 2009 in Washington, DC. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the legislation either this evening or tomorrow morning. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Harry Reid

The Democrat-controlled Senate has killed the House-passed Cut, Cap and Balance Act by a party-line vote of 51-46. The Republican measure would have forced Congress to cap spending and approve a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution before allowing for an increase in the nation's debt ceiling.

Politico reports:

The legislation, a conservative priority, never had a chance of passing, but the strictly partisan 51-46 vote to table the “Cut, Cap and Balance” bill highlighted the partisan divide in Washington over how to tackle spending and raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit. Before the vote Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) again called the plan “radical” and “one of the worst pieces of legislation to ever be placed on the floor of the United States Senate.” ...

While some Democrats have voiced support for a constitutional balanced budget amendment, the version Republicans put on the floor Friday is much stricter than previous versions of a balanced budget amendment because it would enshrine in the constitution a two-thirds super majority requirement for any tax increases.

“It’s one of the stupidest constitutional amendments I have ever seen,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the “Gang of Six” that unveiled a bipartisan deficit-reduction framework this week. “It looks like it was drafted by two interns on the back of a napkin.”

Republicans objected to Democrats’ characterization of the plan, assailing them for negotiating a debt deal behind closed doors and failing to put forth a plan of their own.

“The majority leader and his party has not brought one piece of legislation to this floor. The president has not offered one number, one proposal in writing that we can work with,” said Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), a former senator who was swept back into Washington by the tea-party wave last year.

“We have not had the opportunity to debate for one minute anything that the other side has offered. And so we being something forward and it’s called a worthless piece of junk? Is that what the American people sent us here to do?”

The GOP-controlled House passed Cut, Cap and Balance earlier this week on a mostly party-line 234-190 vote. The plan called for $111 billion in spending cuts in fiscal year 2012, gradually capping federal spending to just under 20 percent of Gross Domestic Product through 2021, and Congress to send states a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget in exchange for a $2.4 trillion hike to the debt ceiling.

With the defeat of CC&B, it remains unclear what the next step will be for the Senate in tackling the debt crisis.  Instead of putting forth their own counter proposal, Democrats insist any deal must originate in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

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