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Utah lawmakers weigh in on escalating debt ceiling debate

By KSL.com | Posted - Jul. 19, 2011 at 9:20 a.m.



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utahns in the House and Senate are taking center stage as the rhetoric in the debt ceiling debate soars.

A vote is expected in the House today on a GOP-backed "cut, cap and balance" bill. The measure is expected to pass but amounts to a symbolic vote while behind-the-scenes work continues on a fallback measure that could become the framework for a compromise.

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The plan will let the government borrow another $2.4 trillion, but only after big and immediate spending cuts and adoption by Congress of a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget. The plan is doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate, and the White House has promised a veto.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is one of 86 co-sponsors. He also has quickly become one of the White House's most vocal critics. He said if President Barack Obama wants to raise the debt ceiling, the underlying problem must be solved. He said the U.S. is borrowing, taxing and spending too much money.

Chaffetz on Monday accused Pres. Obama of inaction.

"Mr. President, if we don't balance this budget, if we don't take care of our debt, if we don't pay off our debts, this country will be bankrupt," he said.

He also said Pres. Obama has no plan to balance the budget. Obama said Monday he plans to veto a cut, cap and balance bill.

"(I) can't let politics stand in the way of doing the right thing," Obama said.

Democrats in the House are fighting the measure.

Rep. Alcee Hatings, D-Fla., said, "I'll name it ‘crap, zap and bounce.'" And Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., added, "We're wasting two more weeks of time on a budget that can't go anywhere."

In the Senate, both sides are believed to be working on a more centrist bill. Utah Senators Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch have been pushing hard for a cut, cap and balance measure there. Lee introduced the legislation in the Senate.

Senate leaders appear likely to try to advance a bipartisan plan to get around the debt limit crisis by giving Obama sweeping powers to order an increase in the borrowing limit. The backup measure faces furious opposition, nonetheless it's seen as probably the most viable option for avoiding a default in two weeks.

Utah legislators are doing what they can to show their support for budget reform. A special session is scheduled for Wednesday. One of the agenda items is a resolution calling on Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment.

Written with contributions from Andrew Adams and The Associated Press.

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