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With US Debt Crisis Looming, Partisan Gridlock Hobbles Washington

House Speaker John Boehner, right, and Republican Conference Chairman Representative Jeb Hensarling, center, listen as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, left, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, July 26, 2011

Top U.S. lawmakers of both major political parties are pledging to defeat their opponents' last-ditch proposals to cut federal spending and raise the government's borrowing limit. One day after President Barack Obama pleaded for compromise to avert a possible default on U.S. debt obligations, congressional deliberations remain hobbled by partisan gridlock and inflexibility.

With days to go before the United States faces what President Obama has called financial "Armageddon," the legislative path to averting a debt crisis appears murkier than ever.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dismissed a proposal issued a day earlier by Republican House Speaker John Boehner that would trim the federal deficit and raise the debt ceiling in two stages.

"It is a short-term fix that Republicans know is untenable to Democrats in the White House and Congress," said Reid. "The Republican plan, they know, will not pass the Senate of the United States."

Moments later, the Senate's top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, blasted a plan put forth by Senator Reid that would also cut spending, but allow for a single, large-scale increase in federal borrowing authority.

"We will fight against anything that pretends to solve the problem, but does not," said McConnell. "The majority leader proposed a plan yesterday that is nothing more than an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the American people."

Although in the minority, Republicans have sufficient numbers to block a final vote on the Reid plan. The Reid plan is considered dead on arrival in the House of Representatives, as is the Boehner plan in the Senate.

In fact, passage of the Boehner plan in the House is far from assured. Minority Democrats oppose the Republican proposal, and some members of the Tea Party faction of the Republican caucus have pledged to vote against any increase in the debt ceiling on ideological grounds.

Early Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor reportedly urged fellow-Republicans to set aside intra-party disagreements and rally behind the Boehner plan.

Senator Reid argued his proposal satisfies key Republican demands: substantial spending cuts and no tax increases.

"If Republicans continue to oppose a reasonable proposal I brought to the floor last night, and which we will vote on in the Senate soon, it will be crystal-clear that Republicans do not care if we default on the debt. That is sad but true," added Reid.

Meanwhile, Senator McConnell blasted President Obama's handling of months of negotiations that have yet to yield an agreement.

"The president can claim to be concerned about this impending crisis. But one question continues to linger above every press conference he has called and every speech he has delivered: where is his plan to resolve it? Republicans have proposed multiple plans," McConnell said.

President Obama has put forth the parameters of a deal as he would like to see it, but left it to bipartisan negotiations to try to hammer out a detailed agreement.

The Obama administration says August 2 is the deadline for raising the debt ceiling. Beyond that date, U.S. Treasury officials say the federal government will have to rely on tax revenue alone to fund its operations. Those revenues are insufficient to cover domestic and foreign expenditures, while also servicing America's $14.3 trillion national debt.