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Timeline: The debt debate

Jul 11, 2011, 10:12 p.m.

May 10 - Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a Democrat, floats a plan that would rely equally on tax hikes and spending cuts to save $4 trillion over 10 years, in a bid to win the liberal support needed to bring it up for a vote. He eventually abandons the effort.

May 11 - House Republicans release a spending outline for the coming fiscal year that has its deepest cuts in education, labor and health programs cherished by Democrats.

May 16 - The United States reaches its $14.3 trillion debt limit. The Treasury Department begins tapping other sources of money to cover the government's bills.

May 17 - The "Gang of Six" talks falter as a leading conservative, Republican Senator Tom Coburn, drops out due to an impasse over healthcare.

May 24 - Democrats win an election to fill an open seat in a conservative New York district and attribute the victory to public unease with the Republican health plan.

May 25 - Senate Democrats force a vote on the Republican health plan in a bid to force Republicans to say whether they support it. Republicans still overwhelmingly back the measure but it fails in the Democratic-controlled chamber.

May 31 - The House of Representatives rejects a measure to raise the debt limit in a vote staged by Republicans to pressure Obama to agree to accompanying spending cuts. Senior Democrats decry the vote as a political stunt, although 82 Democratic lawmakers join Republicans in defeating the bill.

June 9 - In a sixth meeting of the Biden group, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner argues that tax increases need to be part of the equation, but Republicans remain unmoved. Obama and Boehner calling for the group to wrap up its work by July 4.

June 14 - Some 34 Senate Republicans vote to repeal tax breaks for ethanol, a sign that there may be some wiggle room in the party's no-tax-increase stance.

June 16 - After a week of talks, Biden group participants say they have tentatively agreed to a number of cuts but have not yet resolved the divide over taxes and healthcare.

June 23 - Republicans declare an impasse in the Biden talks. They complained that Democrats continued to insist on revenue increases that would never pass Congress. Democrats shoot back that any deficit-reduction package must be balanced, as they try to include tax measures focusing largely on the wealthy and corporations.

June 27 - Obama met separately with the Senate's Democratic and Republican leaders to try to figure out next steps. No agreement is reached but all parties agree to keep talking.

June 29 - The International Monetary Fund says the United States must lift its debt limit soon to avoid a "severe shock" to global markets and a still-fragile economic recovery. Obama calls for new steps to spur job growth and tax hikes on the rich, irking Republicans who remain focused on deficit cuts.

June 30 - Democratic legislators discuss a scaled-back deal that would avert default but force Congress to tackle the debt ceiling issue again before the 2012 elections. The White House rejects the idea.

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