Republican bill passes, opening path to debt deal

Fri Jul 29, 2011 7:27pm EDT
 
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By Andy Sullivan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House of Representatives approved a Republican deficit plan on Friday that has no chance of becoming law but could pave the way for a last-ditch bid for bipartisan compromise to avert a crippling national default.

With time running short ahead of a Tuesday deadline to raise the debt ceiling, the Republican-controlled House pushed the deficit-cutting plan through by a vote of 218-to-210 after the party's leaders reworked the bill to appease anti-tax conservatives in their ranks.

The legislation, denounced earlier by President Barack Obama who had admonished lawmakers to stop wasting time and find a way "out of this mess," was doomed to defeat in the Democratic-led Senate where all of Obama's Democrats have vowed to vote against it later on Friday.

But the House vote broke weeks of political inertia and opened the door to talks on a compromise that could pass Congress before Tuesday. That is the deadline to lift the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt limit or else render the world's largest economy unable to pay all of its bills.

Delays and procedural hurdles will now make it all but impossible for Congress to strike a deal and send it to Obama's desk until the 11th hour, injecting a dangerous level of uncertainty into already rattled global financial markets. A late deal also raises the prospect of the United States losing its top-notch AAA credit rating.

Both sides have been at impasse for weeks with lawmakers locked in a blame game that has brought the country to the brink of an unprecedented default, which could plunge America back into recession and trigger economic turmoil globally.

World leaders have been stunned by the dysfunction in Washington. World Bank President Robert Zoellick on Friday said the United States was playing with fire.

America's largest foreign creditor, China, has repeatedly urged Washington to protect its dollar investments and its state-run news agency on Friday said the United States had been "kidnapped" by "dangerously irresponsible" politics.   Continued...