Top Democrat hopeful debt deal reached within 30 days

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A top Democrat said on Tuesday that he was hopeful Congress would reach within 30 days a deal to increase the country’s borrowing authority.

Congress has about two months to hash out an agreement before the U.S. Treasury will be unable to pay government bills, including interest on U.S. debt.

Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House of Representatives, said he was “hopeful in the near term, within the next 30 days, that we can come to an agreement on doing something that everybody understands is essential.”

Later on Tuesday, Republican leaders in the House are due to hold a vote to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion. The vote, to be held after markets close, is expected to fail because it won’t be accompanied by spending cuts.

Republican lawmakers and some Democrats have refused to raise the legal amount the United States is allowed to borrow without plans to cut the $1.4 trillion deficit and growing public debt.

“We must adopt policies that will reduce spending, reduce the deficit and consider everything that the government spends, except for interest, which is not negotiable,” Hoyer said at a Center for American Progress event in Washington.

“Not allowing for us to pay our debts that we have already incurred is not a viable policy alternative,” he said.

The debt limit was reached on May 16 and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has been forced to employ emergency actions, including tapping federal pension funds, to meet the country’s obligations.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Jan Paschal)