While the political jousting over the debt limit increase continues, the dirty little secret is that the dueling plans released today by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., aren't all that different, and it isn't hard to see how they could bridge their remaining disagreements. Here's a rundown of the similarities between the two plans, the big differences, possibilities for compromise and the remaining questions.
-- Both plans claim to reduce discretionary spending by $1.2 trillion.
--Both plans create a joint, bipartisan, Congressional committee to find future savings.
-- Neither plan includes specific entitlement reform.
--Neither plan includes specific tax increases.
-- Reid's plan wants to raise the debt ceiling all in one chunk (and boosts the claimed deficit reduction number by relying on savings from the expected wind down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan), but Boehner it raised in two parts.
-- While both plans endorse a joint committee, the Boehner plan makes the second debt limit increase contingent on Congress passing $1.8 trillion in additional deficit-reduction based on its recommendations.
-- Boehner plan would ensure a vote in both chambers on a Balanced Budget Amendment.
-- Boehner proposes caps to future spending.
Possibilities for compromise:
-- It would be easy for Reid to allow a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment.
-- The differences over whether the debt limit increase should be short-term or last through the 2012 election is not an ideological-based disagreement, so it seems either side could give way on that one.
-- Depending on the level of the spending cap, there may be some compromise there.
-- How much overlap is there between the $1.2 trillion in discretionary cuts in the two plans? Reid seems to be emphasizing defense cuts more, but if the differences run much deeper than that, they could be difficult to overcome.
--Does either plan have enough votes, let alone a combined plan? As it is, a number of conservatives have been critical of the Boehner plan. If it's then compromised further with the Reid plan, will Boehner have the votes to get it out of the House without significant support from Democrats?