It took another 24 hours and a change to the bill, but the House in Washington has approved House Speaker John Boehner’s proposal to cut the federal budget and raise the debt ceiling.
House members debated the bill yesterday, but called off a vote when the head count fell short of the votes needed for passage. Boehner agreed to attach a provision calling on Congress to send a balanced budget amendment to the states and that drew enough votes for passage. The bill passed 218-210 and moves to the Senate where leaders have declared it dead on arrival.
Nebraska’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of the message, but each member expressed reservations about the bill.
“Well, nobody wants to increase the debt ceiling, but nobody wants the consequences of not increasing the debt ceiling,” Congressman Jeff Fortenberry tells Nebraska Radio Network. “So, clearly this was a moment in which we tried to leverage an outcome which stops the overspending in Washington, but also allows America to pay its bills on time.”
Fortenberry says Republicans in the House engaged in an intense dialogue internally during the 24-hour interval. He says he didn’t favor a delay in voting with the August 2nd deadline for increasing the nation’s borrowing authority fast approaching.
“I was in favor of moving on this sooner than later, because I was hoping to avoid an 11th hour drama as to how America is going to pay its bills in a week,” Fortenberry says. “Yet, at the same time, I wanted to see an outcome that actually brings about structural change, stops the overspending, and gets us on a fiscal trajectory that is sustainable in this country. It took a little while to get there, but the House did its work.”
That work could be in vain. No Democrats voted for the bill in the House. Democratic leaders in the Senate say they will kill the bill.
Congressman Lee Terry released a written statement after the bill passed.
“This wasn’t the larger measure I would have preferred, nor was it the amount of spending cuts I wanted, but the bill we passed today cuts over $900 billion, controls federal spending for 10 years, and will allow us to bring up a balanced budget measure. It is time for Washington to be held accountable for spending taxpayer dollars. While far from perfect, we are moving in the right direction. We have moved the conversation from increasing spending to responsible, realistic spending controls,” Terry said.
Congressman Adrian Smith also released a written statement.
“While this bill is not perfect because greater spending cuts would have been preferred, it responsibly prevents a default on current obligations, enacts serious cuts to government spending, and rejects the President’s request for a blank check – all without raising taxes,” Smith said. “It is not the ultimate solution to our debt crisis, but it is another step on the long path to get our fiscal house in order by implementing spending caps and ensuring a vote on a balanced budget amendment. I urge the Senate to immediately consider this legislation so we stop spending money we do not have and start creating a better environment for economic growth,” according to Smith.
The nation’s borrowing authority is limited to $14.3 trillion. The Treasury Department says it will not have enough cash on hand to meet all the country’s obligations on August 3rd if Congress doesn’t give it the authority to borrow more money.
UPDATE, SATURDAY AFTERNOON:
The Senate has rejected the Boehner bill. Meanwhile, the House has rejected the counter proposal from Senate leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Talks continue in Washington. A vote is scheduled in the Senate on the Reid plan Sunday afternoon.