Details of debt-ceiling deal emerge

Various congressional staffers have released details of the debt-ceiling agreement reached by the White House and congressional Republicans, which are outlined below:

The agreement foresees a $900 billion debt-ceiling increase, but in two phases. The first is an automatic $400 billion increase in the debt ceiling, which should last about two months. Another $500 billion increase could only be blocked by a congressional resolution of disapproval.

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In return for this increase, nearly $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years are planned through spending caps. A cut of about $7 billion in discretionary funding is seen for 2012 compared to 2011, and 2013 discretionary spending would be $3 billion below current levels.

If the caps are exceeded, the difference must be made up through defense spending and Social Security, Medicaid and other benefit programs.

Another $1.5 trillion in cuts over ten years could take place by the end of this year, if agreed by a joint House-Senate committee. Leaders from both parties will need to appoint members to this 12-person body.

If $1.5 trillion in cuts are found, the debt ceiling can be increased another $1.5 trillion. If the cuts are between $1.2 and $1.5 trillion, a matching increase in the debt ceiling would occur. But if the cuts are anything under $1.2 trillion, the debt-ceiling increase would be $1.2 trillion, and the government would be forced to cut $1.2 trillion in spending at a minimum. Each of these possible increases would be subject to congressional disapproval.

Unlike the House-passed bill, congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution is not required to allow this second-round increase in the debt ceiling.