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Debt Ceiling: Senate Rejects House Plan; Obama Nixes Constitutional Option

As expected, the Senate rejected House Republican's so called "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan. As we reported when the House approved it, earlier this week, the bill sought to introduce a balance budget amendment to the constitution.

The New York Times reports this means it leaves Congress — facing an Aug. 2 deadline — without a plan to raise the debt ceiling:

Senators voted 51 to 46 along party lines to set aside the measure, known as the "cut, cap and balance" bill, which was sent to the Senate by the House this week and seen by conservative House members as their preferred option for increasing the debt ceiling. For many House Republicans, the legislation was their best offer in the continuing standoff with President Obama and Congressional Democrats.

After the vote, Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, said the Senate was for the moment abandoning its fallback plan and would not immediately move ahead with a procedural maneuver proposed by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to increase the debt limit. He said the Senate would instead await the results of negotiations between Mr. Obama and the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, over a broad deficit reduction package.

President Obama, meanwhile, rejected the option of using the 14th Amendment as a way to raise the debt ceiling. As we reported, former President Bill Clinton said he'd use that option.

USA Today's The Oval reports that during a town hall at the University of Maryland, Obama said:

"There's a provision in our Constitution that speaks to making sure that the United States meets its obligations, and there have been some suggestions that a president could use that language to basically ignore this debt ceiling rule, which is a statutory rule; it's not a constitutional rule," Obama said.

He said, "I have talked to my lawyers ... They're not persuaded that that is a winning argument."

Reid added that a debt ceiling deal is now in the hands of the House.

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Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.