Deficit-cut plan falls short, offers framework

Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bold plan to slash the U.S. budget deficit fell short on Friday of winning support needed from a presidential commission to trigger congressional action, but it was expected to help shape future budget debates.

The plan found more backing than many anticipated, from Democrats and Republicans, and parts of it could be used in President Barack Obama's next budget, due in February, as well as in congressional proposals to follow.

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A formal commission vote did not occur, but 11 members said they supported the plan and seven said they did not. It needed 14 votes to be sent to Congress for legislative action.

As Europe wrestles with a government debt crisis, the commission's work appeared to have galvanized lawmakers around the need to take firm action soon on reducing the $1.3-trillion deficit and the $13.8-trillion national debt.

"We've crossed an important hurdle here and laid out a plan that will be resurrected because it must be," said Democrat Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, at the commission's last meeting where backed the plan.

"Other than the terrorist threat ... this debt threat constitutes the greatest threat to America," Conrad said.

(Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh, Donna Smith and Andy Sullivan; Editing by Jackie Frank)