POLITICS

Debt vote called off as default deadline nears

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Demoralized House Republicans are trying for a third straight day to pass a debt-ceiling bill that has almost no chance of surviving the Senate, even as the clock ticks closer to next week's deadline for avoiding a potentially calamitous government default.

(Photo: Associated Press)

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suffered a stinging setback Thursday when, for a second consecutive day, he had to postpone a vote on his proposal to extend the nation's borrowing authority while cutting federal spending by nearly $1 trillion.

"Obviously, we didn't have the votes," Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said after Boehner and the GOP leadership had spent hours trying to corral the support of rebellious conservatives.

Republicans will try again Friday. If they continue to fail, then President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats will have extensive leverage to shape a bill to their liking and practically dare the House to reject it and send the nation into default.

If, however, Republicans can get Boehner's version through the House, a rapid and complex set of choices will determine whether and how a debt crisis can be averted. House Republicans will be under tremendous pressure to pass something, even if they have to make it so appealing to their right wing that the nation's independents and centrists will laugh it off. As Thursday's events proved, nothing is guaranteed.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, said Friday morning he believed Boehner was "very close" to having the necessary votes for passage the second time around.

"I'm confident the speaker will get there today," he said in an interview on MSNBC. Buchanan said conservatives have been wary of the various rival debt-limit bills because "people don't trust the process."

Nevertheless, Buchanan said "there's been some momentum" in Boehner's direction since late Thursday and into the day. He said he'll vote for the bill, but warned, "The bottom line is, we're willing to raise the debt ceiling, but at the same time we want to make sure the cuts are delivered."

The main area of dispute between the two parties is how to encourage or guarantee big spending cuts in the future without rekindling a fiercely divisive debt-ceiling debate such as the one now raging.

Interviews with well-placed insiders suggest the following road map, assuming Boehner can get his bill out of the House:

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