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'Cut, cap and balance' unlikely to end debt ceiling struggle

From Candy Crowley, CNN's "State of the Union" anchor
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Graham has no confidence in compromise
  • House likely will pass a "cut, cap and balance" bill this week
  • GOP wants it as a prerequisite to raising the debt ceiling
  • The Democratic-controlled Senate most surely will not pass such a bill

Washington (CNN) -- "Cut, cap and balance" is all the rage in some Republican quarters.

Cut a substantial amount of spending to bring down the roughly $1.5 trillion deficit expected this year.

Cap federal spending at 18 percent of the gross domestic product. It's at 24 percent of the GDP now.

Pass a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution that includes spending caps and makes it difficult to raise federal taxes.

"The answer for the country is for the president to agree to cut federal spending, to cap federal spending and to put in place a balanced-budget amendment," Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney says.

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This week, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives likely will pass a "cut, cap and balance" bill as a prerequisite to raising the debt ceiling. There are mighty objections from Democrats and the White House.

"What these amendments do is not just say you have to balance the budget, but it puts in place spending limitations that would force us to cut Social Security and Medicare more deeply than even the House budget resolution did," Jacob Lew, the White House's budget director, said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

Tweaking the debt limit fallback plan

What the House will almost surely approve, the Senate almost surely will not, leaving the debt ceiling issue precisely where it has been for months: unresolved.

Asked if he would allow the United States to go into default or go to a Plan B if the Senate won't pass the bill, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, said he's not considering an alternative.

"I am going to focus on Plan A. That to me is the only plan that will work. It's the real deal. Not a big deal," Graham said on "State of the Union."

The most probable deal -- still in the works -- would cut spending by $1.5 trillion over 10 years and let the president raise the debt ceiling through the 2012 election. Congress could stop him, but only in the unlikely event of a veto-proof majority vote in both houses.

Everybody gets off the hook. And it avoids economic chaos.

Debt fallback plan gains momentum

At the end of the day, Republican leaders have made it clear that they will not be the ones to put the government into default, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Arizona, said on ABC's "This Week."

It is uncertain whether Republican rank and file will follow. The idea came from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, whom conservatives have trashed ever since.

"We're in big trouble, so let's have that national debate, not some cop-out like the McConnell plan," Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Democratic sources said the McConnell plan will be on the Senate floor this week. A top Republican source said that first the Senate will vote on CCB -- cut, cap and balance.

Even it if fails, it has endless potential as a CBS -- a campaign bumper sticker.