July 18th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

Debt fallback plan gains momentum as GOP plans symbolic votes

Washington (CNN) - Top administration and congressional officials are expected to continue working this week on a measure to raise the federal debt ceiling by up to $2.5 trillion, embracing a version of a fallback plan designed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to avoid a potentially catastrophic default.

At the same time, GOP leaders are planning a series of votes on a proposed balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and sharp caps on future spending. The bills have no chance of clearing Congress or winning the approval of President Barack Obama, but would allow Republicans to demonstrate their preference for steps favored by their party's conservative base.

The maneuvering will take place against a backdrop of heightened anxiety as fears rise that Washington will not be able to pay its bills starting next month. If Congress fails to raise the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling by August 2, Americans could be hit with rising interest rates, a plummeting dollar, and increasingly jittery financial markets, among other things.

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