Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Senate Passes Debt Ceiling Bill

The Senate has passed the bill to raise the debt ceiling.  The bipartisan vote was 74-26.  Given that Rep. John Yarmuth voted no to it in the House, and Sen. Rand Paul voted no in the Senate, it's probably a pretty good compromise:  it enraged extremes from both ends of the spectrum. This is just the start in the long process of restoring the proper size and scope of the federal government, but it is a start.

Here are some of the statements in reaction to the vote:

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:

“Over the past few weeks, Congress been engaged in a very important debate. It may have been messy. It might have appeared to some like their government wasn’t working.

“But, in fact, the opposite was true.

“The push and pull Americans saw in Washington these past few weeks was not gridlock. It was the will of the people working itself out in a political system that was never meant to be pretty.

“You see, one reason America isn’t already facing the kind of crises we see in Europe is that presidents and majority parties here can’t just bring about change on a dime, as much as they might like to from time to time. That’s what checks and balances is all about. And that’s the kind of balance Americans voted for in November.

“The American people sent a wave of new lawmakers to Congress in last November’s election with a very clear mandate: to put our nation’s fiscal house in order. Those of us who’d been fighting the big-government policies of Democrat majorities in Congress welcomed them into our ranks. Together we’ve held the line. And slowly but surely, we’ve started turning things around.

“That’s why those who think that no problem is too big or too small for government to solve are worried right now. They’re afraid the American people may actually win the larger debate we’ve been having around here about the size and scope of government; and that the spending spree may actually be coming to an end. They can’t believe that those who’ve stood up for limited government and accountability have actually changed the terms of the debate in Washington.

“But today, they have no choice but to admit it.

“Now, I know that for some of my colleagues reform isn’t coming as fast as they would like. I understand their frustration. I too wish we could stand here today enacting something much more ambitious. But I’m encouraged by the thought that these new leaders will help lead this fight until we finish the job. And I want to assure you today that although you may not see it this way, you’ve won this debate.

“In a few minutes, the Senate will vote on legislation that represents a new way of doing business in Washington.

“First, it creates an entirely new template for raising the nation’s debt limit. One of the most important things about this legislation is the fact that never again will any President, from either party, be allowed to raise the debt ceiling without being held accountable for it by the American people and without having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just come through.

“This kind of discussion isn’t something to dread; it’s something to welcome. And while the President may not have particularly enjoyed this debate, it was a debate that Washington needed to have.

“As for the particulars, this legislation caps spending over the next 10 years, with a mechanism that ensures that these cuts stick. It protects the American people from a government default that would have affected every single one of them in one way or another. It puts in place a committee that will recommend further cuts and much-needed reforms. It doesn’t include a dime in job-killing tax hikes at a moment when our economy can least afford them. And, crucially, it ensures the debate over a balanced budget amendment continues, and that it gets a vote.

“This is no small feat when you consider that just last week the President was still demanding tax hikes as a part of any debt ceiling increase, and that as recently as May, the President’s top economic advisor said it was `insane’ for anybody to even consider tying the debt ceiling to spending cuts. It’s worth noting that two and a half months later, that advisor is no longer working at the White House and the President is now agreeing, as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, to trillions of dollars in spending cuts.

“Let me be clear: the legislation the Senate is about to vote on is just a first step. But it’s a crucial step toward fiscal sanity, and it’s a potentially remarkable achievement given the lengths to which some in Washington have gone to ensure a status quo that’s suffocating growth, crippling the economy, and imperiling entitlements.

“We’ve had to settle for less than we wanted, but what we’ve achieved is in no way insignificant. And we did it because we had something Democrats didn’t. Republicans may only control one half of one third of the government in Washington. But the American people agreed with us on the nature of the problem. They know that government didn’t accumulate $14.5 trillion in debt because it didn’t tax enough.

“And if you’re spending yourself into oblivion, the solution isn’t to spend more, it’s to spend less.

“Neither side got everything it wanted in these negotiations. But I think it was the view of those in my party that we’d try to get as much spending cuts as we could from a government we didn’t control. And that’s what we’ve done with this bipartisan agreement.

“This is not the deficit reduction package I would have written. The fact that we’re on pace to add another $7 trillion to the debt over the next 10 years is nothing to celebrate. But getting it there from more than $9 trillion the President continued to defend until recently, is no defeat either. And slowing down the big-government freight train from its current trajectory will give us the time we need to work toward a real solution, or give the American people the time they need to have their voices heard.

“So much more work remains. And to that end, our first step will be to make sure that the Republicans who sit on the powerful cost-cutting committee are serious people who put the best interests of the American people, and the principles that we’ve fought for throughout this debate, first.

“But before we move on to the next steps, I would like to say a word about some of those who made today’s vote possible.

“I’ll start with Speaker Boehner.

“It should be noted that he helped set the terms of this debate by insisting early on that he’d oppose any debt limit that didn’t include cuts that were greater than the amount the debt limit would be raised. And he stuck to his guns. The Speaker and I have worked shoulder to shoulder over the past few months, and it’s been a pleasure. He’s been a real partner. We wouldn’t be here without him.

“So I want to thank the Speaker and the entire Republican Leadership in the House for standing on principle, and I want to thank my Republican colleagues in the Senate for their determination and their ideas and their support. We wouldn’t be here without them either. And I want to thank my friend, the Majority Leader, for his work in getting this agreement over the finish line. We may disagree a lot, but I hope everyone realizes it’s never personal. And I think today we can prove that when it comes down to it we’ll come together when a larger good is at stake.

“I also want to thank the President, the Vice President, and everyone on their staffs who believed, as we did, that despite our many differences, we could all agree that America would not default on its obligations. It’s a testament to the good will of those on both sides that we were able to reach this agreement in time. Neither side wanted to see a government default. I’m pleased we were able to work together to avoid it.

“This bill does not solve the problem. But it forces Washington to admit that it has one. And it puts us on the path to recovery. We’re nowhere near where we need to be in terms of restoring balance. But there should be absolutely no doubt about this: we have changed the debate. We’re headed in the right direction.

“How’d it happen? Because the American people demanded it.
“So, in the end, we’re back to where we started. The only reason we’re talking about passing legislation that reins in the size of Washington instead of growing it is because the American people believed that they could have a real impact on the direction of their government. They spoke out, and we heard them. And it’s only through their continued participation in this process, and lawmakers who are willing to listen to them, that we’ll complete the work we’ve begun. As Winston Churchill once said, `Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; [and] courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’

“I can’t think of a better way to sum up this last year and, in particular, these last few months, in Washington than that.
“The American people want to see accountability and cooperation in Washington. And they want to see that we’re working to get our fiscal house in order. This legislation doesn’t get us there. But for the first time in a long time, I think we can say to the American people that we’re finally facing in the right direction. And for that, we have them to thank.” 

Sen. Rand Paul:
To paraphrase Senator Jim DeMint: When you're speeding toward the edge of a cliff, you don't set the cruise control. You stop the car. The current deal to raise the debt ceiling doesn't stop us from going over the fiscal cliff. At best, it slows us from going over it at 80 mph to going over it at 60 mph.

This plan never balances. The President called for a "balanced approach." But the American people are calling for a balanced budget.
This deal does nothing to fix the overreaches of both parties over the past few years: Obamacare, TARP, trillion-dollar wars, runaway entitlement spending. They are all cemented into place with this deal, and their legacy will be trillions of dollars in new debt.
The deal that is pending before us now:
  • Adds at least $7 trillion to our debt over the next 10 years. The deal purports to "cut" $2.1 trillion, but the "cut" is from a baseline that adds $10 trillion to the debt. This deal, even if all targets are met and the Super Committee wields its mandate - results in a BEST case scenario of still adding more than $7 trillion more in debt over the next 10 years. That is sickening.
  • Never, ever balances.
  • The Super Committee's mandate is to add $7 trillion in new debt. Let's be clear: $2.1 trillion in reductions off a nearly $10 trillion,10-year debt is still more than $7 trillion in debt. The Super Committee limits the constitutional check of the filibuster by expediting passage of bills with a simple majority. The Super Committee is not precluded from any issue, therefore the filibuster could be rendered most. In addition, the plan harms the possible passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment. Since the goal is never to balance, having the BBA as a "trigger" ensures that the committee will simply report its $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan and never move to a BBA vote.
  • It cuts too slowly. Even if you believe cutting $2.1 trillion out of $10 trillion is a good compromise, surely we can start cutting quickly, say $200 billion-$300 billion per year, right? Wrong. This plan so badly backloads the alleged savings that the cuts are simply meaningless. Why do we believe that the goal of $2.5 trillion over 10 years (that's an average of $250 billion per year) will EVER be met if the first two years cuts are $20 billion and $50 billion. There is simply no path in this bill even to the meager savings they are alleging will take place.
Buried in the details of this bill is the automatic debt limit increase proposed a few weeks ago. The second installment of the debt ceiling increase is initiated by the President automatically and can only be stopped by a two-thirds vote of Congress. This shifts the Constitutional check on borrowing from Congress to the President and makes it easier to raise the debt ceiling. Despite claims to the contrary, none of the triggers in this bill include withholding the second limit increase.
Credit rating agencies have clearly stated the type of so-called cuts envisioned in this plan will result in our AAA bond rating being downgraded. Ironically then, the only way to avoid our debt being downgraded and the resulting economic problems that stem from that is for this bill to fail.
This plan does not solve our problem. Not even close. I cannot abide the destruction of our economy, therefore I vigorously oppose this deal and I urge my colleagues and the American people to do the same.

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