UPDATE: The United States Senate has approved raising the debt ceiling 74-26. The action follows House approval yesterday 269-161. President Obama has signed the bill.
Congressman Adrian Smith says the most important aspect of the debt ceiling debate might have nothing to do with the contents of the bill.
Smith, a Republican, says the measure falls short of what is needed to rein in federal government spending.
“I would much prefer to cut more than we have,” Smith tells Nebraska Radio Network, “but the fact is we are heading in a direction we need to go. We’ve a long way to go. They work has just begun.”
Smith says the strengths of the measure are that it will cut the federal budget deeper than it will raise the debt ceiling and it calls for a vote on a balanced budget amendment. Smith says he did worry that Congress might miss the deadline and the nation could slip into default.
“Yes, I mean that’s been a concern. I don’t like the economic impact of a default, whether it’s an individual households finances or the general economy as a whole,” Smith says. “That’s something that I think we definitely wanted to avoid.”
Congress, according to Smith, cannot just focus on one measure in its fight to get the nation’s fiscal house in order. He says there must be pressure asserted on members to spend less in every measure submitted.
The measure approved by the House and sent to the Senate calls for $900 billion in cuts to the federal budget in the first stage. A special congressional committee would submit to Congress $1.5 trillion in additional cuts in the second stage. If the committee were to fail in its task, an additional $1.2 trillion in cuts would be triggered automatically; a combination of Defense and non-Defense cuts that would spare Social Security and Medicaid, but could cut reimbursements to Medicare providers.
The vote in the House ended weeks of bitter debate in Washington that sharply divided Republicans and Democrats. That partisan divide disappeared briefly during the vote as Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords entered the chamber to cast her first vote since being severely wounded by a gunman.
“It was a historic moment,” Smith says. “I was glad to be there and I certainly wish her well.”
The gunman opened fired seven months ago during a meeting with constituents Gifford held in her hometown of Tucson, wounding Gifford and several others. Six people died in the shooting.