FACTBOX-How Congress could complete debt legislation

July 31 Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:24am EDT

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July 31 (Reuters) - Here is a rundown of how the U.S. Congress could get the debt ceiling raised and a deficit-reduction plan in place by Tuesday, when the federal government could otherwise run short of money to pay all its bills.

As with everything in Congress, this scenario could change dramatically.

IF A DEAL IS REACHED

* Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has scheduled a test vote at 1300 EDT/1700 GMT on Sunday on his debt plan. He could use that legislation to bring a compromise measure to the Senate floor if one is hammered out with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, the White House and the House leadership.

* The Senate would need at least 60 votes out of 100 to advance the bill more quickly and demonstrate there is enough support for passage.

* Any deal reached by the White House and congressional leaders could contain an understanding that the Senate's time-consuming rules be scrapped and the legislation is spirited through as soon as possible -- but by Tuesday at the latest.

* It's not yet clear whether the Senate or House would vote first. Any deal is likely to face its toughest test in the Republican-controlled House, where Tea Party activists might balk, saying the legislation does not do enough to cut spending and put the country on a path towards a balanced budget. If so, House Democrats could play a big role in the legislation's fate.

* If the Senate and House pass an identical debt limit/deficit-reduction bill, it goes to President Barack Obama for signing into law.

IF PROBLEMS ARISE

* Congressional leaders could try to make quick alterations to attract more votes.

* Congress could try passing a very short-term debt limit increase, say one lasting a couple days, to provide a little more time to reach a broad deal.

* Obama could say he has the power to raise U.S. borrowing on his own, citing a provision of the U.S. Constitution. While the White House has been shying away from this strategy, some leading Democrats in Congress in recent days have been raising this scenario. (Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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