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Tea Party, Liberals -- and Pelosi -- Could Torpedo Debt Deal

By Jim Meyers   |   Monday, 01 Aug 2011 01:10 PM

The debt-ceiling compromise reached on Sunday between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans is under attack from both extremes — tea party conservatives and progressive Democrats are threatening to torpedo the deal.

“Hard-right tea party-backed Republicans, hard-left progressives, and Congressional Black Caucus members have already whipped up a frenzy over the deal,” Fox News reported.

The agreement would slice at least $2.2 trillion from federal spending over a decade, a steep price for many Democrats, too little for many Republicans. The Treasury's authority to borrow would be extended beyond the 2012 elections, a key objective for Obama, though the president had to give up his insistence on raising taxes on wealthy Americans to reduce deficits.

Tea party conservatives are leading the attack from the right, insisting the compromise bill doesn’t cut spending enough. “Someone has to say no, and I will,” said Rep. Michele Bachmann, founder of the House Tea Party Caucus.

Another tea party activist, freshman Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, is even threatening to filibuster the deal. That would force supporters to garner 60 votes in the Senate instead of a simple majority.

“I cannot support any effort to raise the debt limit that isn’t accompanied by immediate and permanent structural spending reform,” he told CNN on Sunday.

“That can’t happen without an amendment to the Constitution that restricts Congress’ borrowing power.”

Asked if he plans to filibuster the deal, Lee stated: “I will fight for a 60-vote threshold on this. And I anticipate asking for one.”

Lee’s fellow Utah senator, Orrin Hatch, also won’t back the bill: “I pledged to not support any debt limit increase absent significant spending cuts, a hard spending cap, and congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution,” he said. “And my word is my bond.”

Many tea party groups oppose any increase in the debt ceiling under any circumstances. A banner on the website of the national Tea Party Patriots reads: “No overspending, no more debt, no excuses.”

Voices on the left have been just as loudly stating their opposition to the compromise bill.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said Sunday: “The deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it.”

Democratic Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told MSNBC: "Until we see the details, we're going to be extremely non-committed but on the surface it looks like a Satan sandwich."

One senate liberal, independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has said he will not support the bill because it relies solely on spending cuts and does not raise taxes to maintain government services. He says the deal is “grotesquely immoral.”

Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said: “This deal is the exact opposite of what the majority of Americans support, and all Democrats in Congress should oppose it.”

Even the House Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, has been noncommittal. "I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my caucus to see what level of support we can provide," she said in a written statement.

Any significant opposition to the bill by Democrats, considering that a number of far-right conservatives have said they won’t support it, could jeopardize passage in Congress.

The House is reportedly set to vote on the measure Monday night, followed by the Senate. The debt-limit deadline for paying government bills is Tuesday.

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