Reid: Cuts must be paired with tax changes

WASHINGTON — Battle lines in federal debt talks sharpened markedly Thursday when the Senate's top Democrat rejected a proposal for $2 trillion in budget cuts as demanded by House Speaker John Boehner, saying any cuts must be accompanied by action on closing tax loopholes.

"You can't do $2 trillion just in cuts," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in an interview in his Capitol office. "There has to be a mix of spending cuts, including defense, there has to be a more fair apportionment of tax policy in this country."

Republicans have resisted using tax reform to rein in deficits as Congress and the White House try to break a stalemate over raising the nation's debt limit by Aug. 2 to avoid a first-ever federal default. Boehner's office reiterated Thursday that tax hikes would not be "on the table" in talks.

GOP senators block judicial nomination

WASHINGTON — Republicans on Thursday blocked the Senate from considering the appellate court nomination of Goodwin Liu, a University of California at Berkeley law professor whose judicial prospects are in doubt.

In a 52-43 face-off, Democrats fell far short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Though they can try again later, Republicans show no sign of relenting against a man they cast as a liberal activist.

"He became one of the stars of the left-wing liberal universe," declared Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah. "I'm really concerned about this nomination."

What happens next will shape both politics and the law, particularly if Liu's nomination remains stymied.

"I think the ramifications of this filibuster are going to be long and difficult," Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California predicted, adding that "this is going to go down hard."