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Dysfunctional Republicans spotlight Capitol Hill chaos

Demoralized House Republicans are trying for a third straight day to pass a debt-ceiling bill that has almost no chance of surviving the Senate, even as the clock ticks closer to next week’s deadline for avoiding a potentially calamitous government default. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suffered a stinging setback Thursday when, for a second consecutive day, he had to postpone a vote on his proposal to extend the nation’s borrowing authority while cutting federal spending by nearly $1 trillion. “Obviously, we didn’t have the votes,” Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., said after Boehner and the GOP leadership had spent hours
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Debt limit stalemate threatens defense spending

Once unthinkable in a time of two wars, Democrats and Republicans alike are insisting that the billions spent on the military can be significantly cut back over the next decade as the nation struggles to reduce its spiraling debt. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid‘s plan to slash spending and increase the government’s borrowing authority would cap spending by the Pentagon and other government agencies at $1.2 trillion. Conservative Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has called for just over $1 trillion in defense cuts in his “Back in Black” plan, including fewer weapons, fighter jets and personnel. A bipartisan group of
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Divided Republicans postpone debt limit vote

The endgame at hand, House Republicans struggled Thursday to pass legislation to prevent a looming government default while slicing nearly $1 trillion from federal spending. Senate Democrats pledged to scuttle the bill — if it got to them — in hopes of forcing a final compromise. As afternoon debate headed toward evening, GOP leaders ordered an unexplained halt on the measure and Speaker John Boehner summoned a string of recalcitrant rank-and-file Republicans to his office. Asked what he and Boehner had talked about, Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said, “I think that’s rather obvious. .. There’s negotiations going on.” Another Republican,
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Economy continues to slow down

The economy likely grew in the first half of the year at the slowest pace since the recession ended, and the second half isn’t looking much better. Weak consumer spending, dismal hiring and cuts in government spending likely held back growth in the April-June quarter. The government will report on second-quarter growth on Friday. Economists forecast the economy expanded at an annual rate of 1.7 percent, according to a FactSet survey. That follows a 1.9 percent growth rate in the first three months of the year. Those are the slowest back-to-back quarters since the economy began recovering from the recession
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Dysfunctional House sets vote on doomed GOP debt limit bill

House Republicans are pressing ahead with a vote on a newly modified plan to stave off an unprecedented government default next week even though the legislation faces a White House veto threat and unanimous opposition among Senate Democrats. As the House prepared to vote Thursday, investor worries that a dysfunctional Congress might remain gridlocked sent stocks plunging. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped almost 200 points Wednesday, on top of a 92-point drop the day before. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made headway with balky conservatives unhappy that the measure contains smaller spending cuts than a more stringent debt measure
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Short-term or long-term? That is the question

It’s a central question in the debt ceiling debate: How long should the nation’s new borrowing authority last? From the start, President Barack Obama has insisted that Congress must raise the current $14.3 trillion debt limit by $2.4 trillion. That would work out to about a 17-month extension, setting up the next vote safely after next year’s elections. But what’s the magic in that? The nation has increased the debt ceiling time and again by shorter periods, often during presidential election years. Republicans, meanwhile, in a plan put forth by House Speaker John Boehner, want a six-month debt ceiling increase
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Aug. 2: A phony debt-limit deadline?

Will the sky fall on August 2 if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling? Not likely, according to analysts, who say that even without the ability to borrow more money, the government could avoid a devastating default for another week or so. That raises the question of how urgently action is needed to increase the nation’s borrowing limit. For weeks, President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have stressed that the U.S. Treasury will run out of room to borrow funds next Tuesday and have warned of dire consequences if Congress does not raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion
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Ouch! Government health care costs will hit $4.6 trillion by 2020

The nation’s health care tab is on track to hit $4.6 trillion in 2020, accounting for about $1 of every $5 in the economy, government number crunchers estimate in a report out Thursday. How much is that? Including government and private money, health care spending in 2020 will average $13,710 for every man, woman and child, says Medicare‘s Office of the Actuary. By comparison, U.S. health care spending this year is projected to top $2.7 trillion, or about $8,650 per capita, roughly $1 of $6 in the economy. Most of that spending is for care for the sickest people. The
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Right-wing puts Boehner in a vise

Neither the House nor the Senate has a clear path forward for must-pass legislation to allow the government to continue to borrow to pay its bills, putting lawmakers and financial markets alike on edge less than a week before the deadline for heading off the nation’s first-ever default. House Speaker John Boehner was forced late Tuesday to postpone a floor vote on his plan, which originally had been scheduled for Wednesday, after nonpartisan congressional scorekeepers said the proposal would cut spending less than advertised. He promised to rewrite the measure, but the move means the House can’t vote on it
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Lots of hype, few actual spending cuts

They may promise to reduce federal spending by $3 trillion or thereabouts, but the immediate spending cuts in rival budget and debt proposals by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid only measure a few billion dollars. The rest are mostly promises — and in Reid’s case, a glaring $1 trillion ploy. Reid, D-Nev., claims $2.7 trillion in budget savings over a decade in his plan. But $1 trillion of that comes from reduced war costs from a troop drawdown that’s occurring anyway. Reid budgets $127 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan next year and
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