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Debt plan cheat sheet

By Lisa Desjardins, host of CNN Radio's "American Sauce"
The debt deal calls for up to $2.4 trillion in savings over the next decade and raises the debt ceiling through 2012.
The debt deal calls for up to $2.4 trillion in savings over the next decade and raises the debt ceiling through 2012.
  • Debt deal bill passes House, is expected to sail through Senate on the way to the president
  • Tense negotiations between top Democrats and Republicans had become race against clock
  • CNN's cheat sheet breaks the debt-ceiling deal down into easy-to-digest parts

Editor's note: Follow Lisa Desjardins on Twitter at @LisaDCNN.

Washington (CNN) -- Confused or annoyed by the debt deal? We have a podcast and cheat sheet to simplify life and ease your pain.

Listen to this week's "American Sauce" here. CNN Radio lays out the debt deal and looks at what appears to be Congress' addiction to crises.


• Read it: Here (PDF).

• Length: 74 pages

• Title: Budget Control Act of 2011

Raising the debt ceiling

• The bill raises the debt ceiling by a minimum of $2.1 trillion and a maximum of $2.4 trillion.

• By the end of the year, the limit on the U.S. national debt would be somewhere between $16.4 trillion and $16.7 trillion total.

• Both parties estimate that amount will give the government the borrowing power it needs through 2012.

• Under this deal, the debt is increased in two phases.

Phase one

• This bill would cut $917 billion in spending over 10 years.

• And it would raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion.

• Lawmakers involved say they believe the first phase gives the United States the borrowing power it needs through early 2012.

Phase two

• The debt limit could increase $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in this phase, attached to deficit cuts of the same magnitude.

• The debt deal sets up one of three ways that Congress could trigger the next debt increase.

Trigger one: A balanced-budget amendment -- The debt ceiling would increase another $1.5 trillion if Congress passes a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. That requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

Trigger two: Super-committee -- The debt ceiling would increase up to $1.5 trillion if Congress passes broad deficit reform measures as recommended by a new joint committee. The ceiling would increase only by the amount of deficit cuts passed by the committee and Congress. Thus, if the committee passes $1.3 trillion in deficit cuts, the president could ask for only a $1.3 trillion increase in the debt ceiling.

Trigger three: Automatic cuts -- If neither of the above options happens, the lack of action triggers automatic across-the-board cuts in government. Those cuts would be up to $1.2 trillion and would trigger an increase in the debt ceiling of the same amount. Cuts would be up to 2% for Medicare, but the bill dictates they should not affect beneficiaries.

Initial spending cuts

• The $917 billion in cuts in phase one come as spending caps over the next 10 years.

• The bill does not delineate which agencies would take what amounts of cuts. Instead it would limit appropriators in future years to certain spending caps. Where the cuts hit would be up to future committees and Congresses.

• The caps do not cut total government spending year to year but instead shrink how much that spending grows. Put another way, under this plan discretionary government spending would still increase year to year but would increase by significantly less than under current policy.

• These are cuts in future spending.

Joint committee

Who: Twelve members of Congress, including six Republicans and six Democrats. Party leaders in each chamber chose the members.

When: The committee has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to cut up to $1.5 trillion from future deficits. Congress must vote by December 23.

Vote: The reform package would require a simple majority -- not the usual 60 votes -- to move through the Senate.

What: The committee can recommend any reforms in the federal budget. Its goal is to find $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts.

You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.

CNN Radio's Dan Szematowicz and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.

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