After an intense day of direct and shuttle negotiations, and after a tentative agreement nearly fell apart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the floor of the Senate late Sunday to announce an agreement in principle.
"The compromise we have agreed to is remarkable for a number of reasons, not only because of what it does, but because of what it prevents," Reid said.
"This is an important moment for our country," McConnell noted in response. "I can say with a high degree of confidence that there is a framework in place to assure a significant degree of cuts to Washington spending."
Both men announced the intent to meet with their caucuses Monday morning, to sell the plan, and round up votes for what will have to be rapid legislative action if both chambers are to pass the plan before the country's borrowing authority expires late Tuesday.
President Obama discussed the framework in a public statement at the White House Sunday evening, and urged members of both parties to support the plan. He also criticized Congress for touching off this crisis, and for being unable to arrive at a single grand bargain to improve the country's fiscal situation (with spending cuts and tax increases) and raise the debt limit as well.
The problem is the sell to the House.
House Speaker John Boehner told fellow Republicans on Sunday that he aims to bring a debt-ceiling deal up for a vote "as soon as possible" even though it is not perfect, his office said.
"My hope would be to file it and have it on the floor as soon as possible," Boehner said on a conference call, according to excerpts released by his office. "This isn't the greatest deal in the world. But it shows how much we've changed the terms of the debate in this town."
The Tea Party is being told now they are avoiding the "job-killing default" when voters know damn well that the Tea Party wanted to default in the first place because it was "no big deal" to default. Now they are going to be furious. There's a very good chance this deal falls apart.
But even if it does manage to pass as it is right now, President Obama still holds the power over the Bush tax cuts. That's his weapon and the GOP knows it.
[UPDATE] White House's fact sheet on the deal is here.
Mechanics of the Debt Deal
- Immediately enacted 10-year discretionary spending caps generating nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction; balanced between defense and non-defense spending.
- President authorized to increase the debt limit by at least $2.1 trillion, eliminating the need for further increases until 2013.
- Bipartisan committee process tasked with identifying an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, including from entitlement and tax reform. Committee is required to report legislation by November 23, 2011, which receives fast-track protections. Congress is required to vote on Committee recommendations by December 23, 2011.
- Enforcement mechanism established to force all parties – Republican and Democrat – to agree to balanced deficit reduction. If Committee fails, enforcement mechanism will trigger spending reductions beginning in 2013 – split 50/50 between domestic and defense spending. Enforcement protects Social Security, Medicare beneficiaries, and low-income programs from any cuts.