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Deficit measure won't go to Congress

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama's deficit commission failed Friday to forge consensus on what to do about an increasingly urgent debt problem, but the breakdown of its vote lays out the road map for how Congress might address it next year.

Fourteen votes were needed to officially send the plan to Congress now for quick action on it. The 11-7 vote in favor of the panel co-chairmen's recommendations for a painful mix of spending cuts and tax increases foretells a bitterly partisan and possibly unproductive debate in the House. If there's a deal to be had, it will likely be reached in the Senate.

About $4 trillion would be slashed from the budget in the coming decade - three-fourths of it through spending cuts and the rest from higher taxes. Deficits over the period are estimated in the $100-trillion range and are expected to require the federal government to borrow 33 cents of every dollar it spends.

Five of six senators on the panel - two Democratic allies of Obama and three conservative Republicans - voted for the plan's wrenching measures, including raising the Social Security retirement age, cutting future benefit increases and ending popular tax breaks like the mortgage interest deduction.

But only one of the half-dozen House members on the commission endorsed the proposal - outgoing Democrat John Spratt Jr. of South Carolina. Republicans recoiled from tax increases and said it didn't do enough to rein in skyrocketing health care costs.

The plan would nearly freeze the Pentagon's budget and outright cut spending by most domestic agencies. It would nearly double the federal tax on gasoline with a 15 cents per gallon increase. Income tax rates would fall, but only by eliminating or scaling back popular tax breaks, including the child tax credit, mortgage interest deduction and deduction claimed by employers who provide health insurance.

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