The plan also provides an expedited track for the president to request a hike in the debt limit to be implemented in two stages. A first step calls for Congress to pass $1.2 trillion in spending cuts, allowing the president to request a $1 trillion hike in the debt ceiling. The request would be deemed passed unless Congress votes a resolution of disapproval – a procedure first proposed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
This expedited procedure allows Congress to raise the debt limit with only a third plus one votes in either the House or Senate, the threshold for sustaining a presidential veto – saving many lawmakers a difficult, but necessary vote.
The next stage empowers a new legislative commission – six Republicans and eight Democrats – to find an additional $1.8 trillion in spending cuts, that would include cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, which is a nonstarter for Democrats. If passed, this second-stage vote also opens the door to a presidential request to raise the debt ceiling through 2012, also on a fast track.
Finally, the GOP plan requires a vote in both the House and Senate on a balanced-budget amendment to the US Constitution. The House GOP’s cut, cap, and balance measure set a higher threshold – requiring that Congress pass a balanced budget amendment and send it on to the states for ratification.