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House set for symbolic debt ceiling vote, eyeing ‘Plan B’

Even as the House of Representatives was set to vote on the Republican “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan to raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday that discussions continue on alternative proposals, which are coming into shape as the likely basis of a final deal.

The plan being voted on Tuesday afternoon would cut spending by $111 billion in 2012 and cap future outlays to 19.9% of the nation’s gross domestic output. It also would require that Congress send a balanced-budget constitutional amendment to the states for ratification, a lengthy process.

Even if passed by the House, it’s likely to fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate. President Obama vowed to veto it even if the Senate did approve it, with aides derisively deeming it “dodge, duck and dismantle.”

Boehner dismissed criticism that the House was wasting time on a symbolic measure to appease the GOP’s conservative base, saying Tuesday that “anything’s possible.”

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“I’m not going to give up hope on ‘Cut, Cap and Balance.’ But I do think it’s responsible for us to look at what Plan B would look like,” he said.

The Republican leadership “had a long conversation” Monday about that “Plan B” -- a deal being worked out by Senate leaders, based on a legislative strategy devised by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.  

“There are a lot of options available to us. There have been no decisions made as of yet,” Boehner said, noting that no other plan has the required 218 votes to clear the chamber.

In the Senate, meanwhile, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) announced he was rejoining what had been called the “Gang of Six,” a bipartisan group that was developing its own deficit reduction plan, based on the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles commission created by Obama last year.

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The group is proposing immediate cuts of $500 billion with a commitment of up to $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade.

Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.


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