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Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee oppose new debt deal

SALT LAKE CITY — Even though a new proposal emerging Sunday night would spare the country from going into default on its $14.3 trillion deficit, Utah's two Senators are sticking to their guns and vowing to vote against the measure when it comes before the Senate.

Pres. Barack Obama announced on national television late Sunday that the White House has brokered an agreement with Senate leaders to raise the federal debt ceiling before the government starts missing payments on Tuesday. The proposal's very basic parameters: if approved by the House and Senate, it would immediately raise the nation's debt limit by $900 billion while also mandating approximately $917 billion in offsetting budget cuts.

However, in large part because the plan doesn't require a Constitutional balanced budget amendment, Sen. Orrin Hatch and Sen. Mike Lee will both vote against the legislation when it comes before the Senate.

"I am continuing to review the reported proposal but I pledged to not support any debt limit increase absent significant spending cuts, a hard spending cap, and congressional passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution," Hatch said late Sunday. "(That) is what this country needs to climb out of this debt crisis that threatens our country's future. And my word is my bond."

Lee expressed reservations about the process that yielded the new deal, wherein only a handful of people like Pres. Barack Obama and Senate leaders Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had a hand in formulating the final outcome.

"I understand that there is an argument to be made for making certain aspects of this difficult, complex process more simple and easier to manage by having a small group of negotiators talk about it behind closed doors," Lee told the Deseret News. "But one of the problems about this that has been frustrating is that there has been very little debate and discussion … we haven't had a single bill to address the debt-limit issue come into the Senate that has been subject to an open debate, discussion and amendment process on the floor."

For much of the day Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, were essentially in the same boat as the rest of America — all they knew about McConnell's negotiations with the White House stemmed from media reports. Sunday night, Matheson and Bishop were reserving judgment on the new proposal until they had a chance to read it.

"Rep. Matheson is hopeful that Monday will bring a bipartisan, serious proposal to address the deficit and the debt-ceiling deadline," said Alyson Heyrend, Matheson's communications director.

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