Debt Limit Deal? 

Posted: 11:56 pm Saturday, July 30th, 2011

By Jamie Dupree

After a day filled with verbal broadsides from both parties, there was evidence late Saturday night that major progress had suddenly been made on an increase in the nation’s debt limit, as negotiations resumed at the White House.

“Mr. President, there are negotiations going on at the White House now,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, as he delayed a test vote that had been scheduled for just after 1:00 am Sunday on a Democratic debt limit plan.

“There’s still a distance to go before any arrangement can be completed,” Reid said, but it was a major change from earlier on Saturday, as the floors of both the House and Senate lit up with sharp exchanges over the politics of the debt limit.

Early reaction from various sources on Capitol Hill indicated that progress was definitely made on Saturday in talks at the White House, after days in which President Obama was on the sidelines in the debt limit battle.

“Pretty close,” was the way one GOP lawmaker described the status of the talks after a high-level briefing earlier in the evening.

“We’re still working,” was the characterization from a senior Congressional staffer, who added, “Nothing to report.”

“I’ve spoken to the White House,” Sen. Reid said. “They’ve asked me to give everyone as much time as possible to reach an agreement.”

So, even though the debt limit procedural vote is scheduled for 1 pm on Sunday afternoon, that could well be delayed again by Senate Democrats, especially if progress is being made in talks on an agreement.

The outlines of the agreement being floated around Capitol Hill would include around $2.5 trillion in budget savings over ten years, and an increase in the debt limit of a little less than that.

A vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment would have to be held by Congress, but its passage would not be required as part of any deal to raise the debt limit.

The emerging details indicated that both sides would get something out of this deal, a legislative compromise that would surely leave some aggravated.

“As we delay voting in the Senate we continue to see power consolidated into the hands of just a few legislative leaders,” said Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), who called that “troubling.”

More experienced hands on Capitol Hill might call that “the art of deal making.”

We’ll see Sunday if key leaders and the President can strike a deal, or if there is still more negotiating in the works.

The Senate convenes at 12 noon, with the cloture vote still set for an hour after that.