After weeks of negotiations and uncertainty, the President yesterday signed the the compromise debt plan worked out between Congressional leaders and the White House, just hours before the deadline set by the Treasury Department to avoid default.
The Democratic-led Senate approved the plan yesterday, 74-26. The Republican-controlled U.S. House agreed to the deal 269 to 161. The measure would raise the debt ceiling in several steps and would reduce the federal budget deficit by about $2.1 trillion over a 10-year period.
Congress left for their summer recess without passing a long-term or temporary reauthorization for the FAA, causing the furlough of some 4,000 FAA employees and the halting of hundreds of airport construction projects.
President Obama urged the House and Senate to act to temporarily restore FAA funding, telling reporters at the White House that Congress shouldn't "put the livelihoods of thousands of people at risk. Don’t put projects at risk. And don’t let a billion dollars, at a time when we’re scrambling for every dollar we can, get left on the table because (Congress) did not act."
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood also appeared at the White House's daily briefing and called on Congress to "leave their vacations" and return to Washington to resolve the FAA shutdown.
DEBT CEILING PLAN DETAILS
The plan calls for a special joint committee (made up of six Democrats and six Republicans, equally divided between the House and Senate) that would be tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction in spending cuts or revenue increases. The committee must report a bill with its recommendations by November 23.
Those recommendations would then have to be voted on by the full House and Senate under special rules. If the joint committee or Congress fail to act by December 23, the bill calls for automatic across-the-board cuts, split 50-50 between defense and non-defense spending, including Medicare. Social Security and Medicaid would be excluded from the automatic cuts.
Congress has 14 days from the day the President signs the bill to choose the twelve members of the special joint committee. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters he expects the chosen members to be "open to solutions, not ideologically rigid."
The plan also requires the House and Senate to vote on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, which would require a 2/3 majority in both houses. That vote must take place by December 31, 2011.