WASHINGTON, April 20 President Barack Obama's
administration is urging Congress to raise the United States'
$14.3 trillion debt limit before the Treasury Department is
forced to default on its obligations.
The debate is likely to take months as Republicans and
Democrats will almost certainly open a new fight over
government spending cuts and try to win political points ahead
of the 2012 elections.
Here are some of the key players in the debate:
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA
Obama hopes Congress will raise the debt limit without
attaching limits on spending or other conditions, but even he
has admitted that's not likely. After sitting out the debate
over spending and budget deficits for much of the year, Obama
put forward a deficit-reduction plan last week and is now
trying to sell it to the public in campaign-style appearances
across the country. Obama is running for a second term and
budget cuts and the size of government are likely to be key
issues in next year's elections.
VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
Biden has deep ties in Congress thanks to his long tenure
in the Senate. He has taken a lead role in budget negotiations
and will lead bipartisan talks that Obama hopes by late June
can bridge the gaps between Republican and Democratic plans.
HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER
Boehner won the largest domestic spending cut in U.S.
history as part of a long-delayed budget deal that passed
Congress last week, but he had to rely on Democratic votes to
pass it after 59 members of his Republican party decided that
it did not go far enough. He will be under pressure to deliver
further spending cuts to satisfy conservative Tea Party
activists who have shown little appetite for compromise.
HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN PAUL RYAN
A formerly obscure congressman from Wisconsin, the
41-year-old Ryan is now going head-to-head with Obama after the
Republican-held House passed his deficit-reduction plan on a
party-line vote last week. Ryan's budget blueprint would trim
deficits by $4.4 trillion over the coming decade by imposing
hard caps on domestic spending, lowering top tax rates.and
scaling back government-run health plans for the poor and the
Though his plan will not pass the Democratic-controlled
Senate in its entirety, portions of it could win passage if
Republicans attach them to debt-limit legislation.
TREASURY SECRETARY TIMOTHY GEITHNER
The former New York Federal Reserve president and former
Republican is the administration's point man on the debt
ceiling. Geithner has already warned lawmakers in letters and
in person of catastrophic consequences if they fail to increase
the country's borrowing limit.
Although Geithner angered Republicans by pushing the
Dodd-Frank regulation bill, they will listen to him and are
actively seeking his input.
He is the only remaining member of the administration's
original economic team. In recent days, he has taken to the
airwaves to reassure markets that Congress will do the right
WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER GENE SPERLING
Director of the White House National Economic Council,
Sperling is a heavyweight Washington veteran who did the same
job for President Bill Clinton and is a key figure in the
deficit debate. He ensures Obama's economic team works smoothly
together. Progressives like him, but Republicans can also do
business with him.
WHITE HOUSE BUDGET DIRECTOR JACK LEW
Another Clinton-era veteran who has also previously run the
White House Office of Management and Budget and helped steer
the United States to a budget surplus. He is seen as a
straight-shooting details man who is unflappable and
non-ideological and who can get a deal done.
SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN KENT CONRAD
A moderate Democrat from North Dakota, Conrad is expected
to lay out his party's response to Ryan's budget plan in the
next several weeks. At the same time, he has been involved with
the "Gang of Six", a group of three Democratic and three
Republican senators that are trying to forge a
deficit-reduction plan able to win support from both parties.
SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL
McConnell's Republicans don't control the Senate, but he is
not afraid to use the Senate's arcane rules to slow action in
the chamber to a crawl. Expect him to reach deep into his bag
of procedural tricks to make life as difficult as possible for
Democrats as the debate heats up.
REPUBLICAN SENATOR SAXBY CHAMBLISS
A leader of the Gang of Six, the conservative senator from
Georgia could face the wrath from fellow Republicans for
refusing to rule out tax increases as part of a
SENATE ASSISTANT DEMOCRATIC LEADER DICK DURBIN
Durbin serves as his party's chief vote counter in the
Senate. A liberal who is close to Obama, Durbin also is
participating in the "Gang of Six" talks.
HOUSE DEMOCRATIC WHIP STENY HOYER
As his party's chief vote counter in the House, with close
ties to party moderates, Hoyer could be in a position to soften
Republican spending cuts if Boehner can't round up enough votes
to pass a deal on his own.
(Reporting by Andy Sullivan and Rachelle Younglai; Editing by