Today’s Headlines – July 15, 2011

Happy Friday! In preparation for the weekend, here’s what we’re following to start the day.

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations, including reports that the debt-ceiling strategy appears to moving toward a “plan B.”

The New York Times: ‘Decision Time’ On Budget, Obama Tells Leaders

The president said he might summon the leaders to the White House over the weekend if there was no progress. … On Capitol Hill, leaders of both parties were focused increasingly on a proposal by the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that could provide a way out of the stalemate on the debt limit. Under the McConnell proposal, the president could request $2.5 trillion of additional borrowing authority in three installments — enough to meet the government’s needs through the end of next year. With each request, he would have to propose an equivalent amount of cuts in federal spending over the next 10 years. Mr. Obama reiterated his refusal to sign a stopgap measure … but left the door open to Senator McConnell’s plan as a fallback option. The president told the leaders he still believed there could be a landmark deal with savings of about $2 trillion over a decade, the official said (Landler and Pear, 7/14).

The Washington Post: As White House Talks Falter, Senate  Works On Agreement To Raise Debt Limit
A breakthrough in the White House talks looked unlikely, however, leaving the Senate framework as the chief option for raising the debt limit before Aug. 2, when the Treasury will be unable to pay its bills without additional borrowing authority (Montgomery and Kane, 7/14).

For more headlines …

The Wall Street Journal: Plan B Emerges On Debt
A backup plan to cut the federal deficit and keep the U.S. government from default gained momentum Thursday even as President Barack Obama and congressional leaders paused their negotiations to determine if they can reach a deal. … The ideas face enormous political and procedural hurdles, especially in the House where conservatives are determined to keep pressing for deeper spending cuts, and even Senate leaders say they are far from finding the middle ground they seek (Lee and Hook, 7/15).

The Associated Press: Debt Face-Off Shifts To Congress, Bargain In Play
With an Aug. 2 deadline looming and no compromise jelling at the White House, President Barack Obama had to settle Friday for asking congressional leaders to take three deficit reduction options to their members to see which, if any, could win a vote in the House and Senate. Meanwhile, a proposal the White House has termed a “fallback option” was taking root in the Senate as a likely alternative to the brinkmanship that has defined negotiations to secure an increase in the government’s borrowing authority (Kuhnhenn, 7/15).

USA Today: Looking For Debt Deal, Obama Outlines Cuts
Rather than continue to push for $4 trillion in savings over the next decade, Obama outlined a plan that would achieve roughly $2 trillion, almost entirely from spending reductions. That marks a major concession — one the president is likely to address at a news conference scheduled for 11 a.m. ET this morning. At the same time, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Harry Reid forged ahead with an even smaller deal of their own, one that represents a second fallback plan. It would allow Obama to raise the debt limit and create a process by which Congress would vote in the future on spending reductions. … The remainder of the package would be spending cuts and savings on interest, but not the major reductions in Medicare or Social Security that Obama had been willing to accept as part of a $4 trillion deal (Wolf and Jackson, 7/14).

Los Angeles Times: Raising Medicare Costs May Be Gaining Traction
The heated debate over the federal deficit has pumped new life into controversial proposals for requiring Americans on Medicare to pay more for their healthcare, raising the possibility that seniors’ medical bills could jump hundreds or even thousands of dollars. It remains unclear if any of the proposals, which congressional Republicans have demanded to cut trillions of dollars from the federal budget, will be enacted this year, given the continued stalemate over government spending. But the ideas, once considered politically toxic, have gained enough traction that many in Washington expect them to resurface, if not now, then after the 2012 election (Levey, 7/15).

Politico: Eric Cantor, PhRMA Fight Drug Discounts In Budget Deal
An on-again, off-again proposal that forces pharmaceutical companies to essentially discount drugs for Medicare’s poorest seniors is back on-again —despite fierce opposition from the drug lobby and one of their staunchest defenders, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Dobias, 7/14).

The Wall Street Journal: Pelosi And House Democrats Gain Leverage
Rep. Robert Andrews (D., N.J.) said that even if Ms. Pelosi ultimately voted against the deal, her involvement in the process could pave the way for other Democrats to support it. In the talks, she has pushed for revenue increases sufficient to meet Democrats’ demands for a what they call a “balanced” package with spending cuts. “She’s been giving us basically two messages,” he said. “One is: The Democratic values that we cherish—Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid—are not being glossed over at this table. She’s making sure they are front-and-center. But the second is: She’s giving the president room to make an agreement that would benefit the country” (Bendavid, 7/15).

The Washington Post: Edwards Emerging As Liberal Leader In The House
Last Friday night, Edwards sent a letter to President Obama signed by 69 fellow House Democrats urging him to keep the programs “off the bargaining table” in the ongoing debt-ceiling negotiations. The day before, on July 7, Edwards surprised colleagues at a closed-door meeting in the Capitol basement when she publicly chastised her Maryland neighbor, House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer, over entitlement reform. The quick succession of events illustrated what Edwards has become just three years into her congressional tenure — an increasingly prominent voice among liberal House Democrats (Pershing, 7/14).

NPR: Restrictions On Abortion Multiply This Year
As predicted by those on both sides of the contentious abortion battle, states in the first half of this year have enacted a record 162 new laws or changes to existing laws that affect reproductive health, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute (Rovner, 7/14).