Bill to raise debt limit passed Monday; Giffords brings down the House

Monday, August 1, 2011 | 8:53 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON — Emergency legislation sped through the House on Monday night, a scant day before the deadline for action to avoid a national financial default. The moment was made all the more electric by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' first appearance in Congress since being shot in the head six months earlier.

The vote was 269-161, but all eyes were on Giffords, who drew thunderous applause as she walked into the House chamber unannounced and cast her vote in favor of the bill.

How Missouri's representatives voted

Democrats —
Russ Carnahan, Y
William "Lacy" Clay Jr., Y
Emanuel Cleaver, N

Republicans —
Todd Akin, N
Jo Ann Emerson, Y
Sam Graves, Y
Vicky Hartzler, N
Billy Long, Y
Blaine Luetkemeyer, Y

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A final Senate sign-off for the measure is virtually assured for Tuesday.

"If the bill were presented to the president, he would sign it," a White House spokesperson said, an understatement of enormous proportions.

After months of fierce partisan struggle, the House's top Republican and Democratic leaders swung behind the bill, ratifying a deal sealed Sunday night with a phone call from House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama.

"The legislation will solve this debt crisis and help get the American people back to work," Boehner said at a news conference a few hours before the vote.

The Democratic leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, was less effusive. "I'm not happy with it, but I'm proud of some of the accomplishments in it. That's why I'm voting for it," she said.

That thought was echoed by many of the first-term Republicans whose election in 2010 handed the GOP control of the House and set the federal government on a new, more conservative course. "It's about time that Congress come together and figure out a way to live within our means," said one of them, Sean Duffy of Wisconsin. "This bill is going to start that process although it doesn't go far enough."

The measure would cut federal spending by at least $2.1 trillion over a decade — and possibly considerably more — and would not require tax increases. The U.S. debt limit would rise by at least $2.1 trillion, tiding the Treasury over through the 2012 elections.

Without legislation in place by the end of Tuesday, the Treasury would run out of cash needed to pay all its bills. Administration officials say a default would ensue that would severely damage the economy.

Beyond merely avoiding disaster, Obama and congressional leaders hoped their extraordinary accord would reassure investors at home and around the world, preserve the United States' AAA credit rating and begin to slow the growth in America's soaring debt. In a roller-coaster day on Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average surged, then sank and finally finished down for a seventh straight session, but only slightly.

In all, 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted for the bill, while 66 Republicans and 95 Democrats opposed it. After months of suspense, the vote was anti-climactic.

Not so the moment when Giffords' presence became known.

She greeted some fellow lawmakers who crowded around her and blew kisses to others, beaming the whole while. Her hair was dark and close cropped and she wore glasses — nothing like the image America had of her six months ago when she was shot while greeting constituents outside a supermarket in Tucson.

She did not speak with reporters.

As for the legislation, after months of wrangling over a deal, there was little time left for lawmakers to decide how to vote.

The White House dispatched Vice President Joe Biden to the Capitol to lobby recalcitrant Democrats in both houses.

"They expressed all their frustration," he said after a session with lawmakers of his party in the House.

He said the deal "has one overwhelming redeeming feature" — postponing the next debt limit battle until 2013 and putting the current fight behind. "We have to get this out of the way to get to the issue of growing the economy," he said.

Republicans lobbied their rank and file as well, and the results were far more positive for them than a week ago when they were forced to delay a vote on an earlier measure.

GOP leaders swiftly drew public pledges of support from some first-termers as well as veteran defense hawks — two areas of concern with the agreement.

Rep. C.W. Bill Young, chairman of the committee that handles the defense budget, said, "We're confident that we can make this happen without affecting readiness and without affecting any of our soldiers."

There were critics on both sides of the aisle, some of them anguished.

"I did not come to Washington to force more people into poverty," said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

"At the end of the day, Washington's spending still has us sprinting toward a fiscal cliff. And this bill barely slows us down," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C.

There is little suspense about the outcome for the debt-limit legislation in the Senate on Tuesday.

A member of the Republican leadership in the Senate predicted strong GOP support. "Maybe 35 (of 47) will support it in the end. There will be some who will pull back," said Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.

Already, the legislation was emerging as an issue in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced their opposition, while Newt Gingrich issued a statement without saying how he would vote.

The final legislation reflected the priorities of the two political parties.

It would immediately increase the debt limit by $400 billion, with another $500 billion envisioned unless Congress blocks it. At the same time, it would cut more than $900 billion over 10 years from the day-to-day operating budgets of Cabinet agencies. For the budget year that begins Oct. 1, spending would be held $7 billion below current levels.

The measure also establishes a 12-member House-Senate committee that will be charged with producing up to $1.5 trillion in additional deficit cuts over a decade. If the panel succeeds, Congress will be required to vote on the recommendations without possibility of changes.

If the panel deadlocks or fails to produce at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings, then spending cuts are to take effect across much of the federal budget. The Pentagon, domestic agencies and farm subsidies would be affected, as would payments to doctors and other Medicare providers. But individual benefits under Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and programs for veterans and federal retirees would be exempt.

At the same time, the debt limit would rise by at least another $1.2 trillion, and perhaps — depending on the results of the committee's work — as much as $1.5 trillion.

Additionally, the legislation requires both the House and Senate to vote on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution.

The measure also increases funding for Pell Grants for low-income college students by $17 billion over the next two years, financed by curbs on federal student loan subsidies.

The result of weeks of negotiations and harsh arguing, the final result represented a product of divided government that gave neither side everything it wanted. Leaders in both parties were emphatic on that point.

"As with any compromise, the outcome is far from satisfying," said Obama in a video for his re-election campaign sent to millions of Democrats. In a tweet, the president was more positive: "The debt agreement makes a significant down payment to reduce the deficit — finding savings in both defense and domestic spending."

Associated Press writers Jim Abrams, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Julie Pace, Donna Cassata, Andrew Taylor and Larry Margasak contributed to this report.

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Delcia Crockett August 1, 2011 | 11:24 p.m.

Our elected in the hallowed halls of Congress do this budget crisis thing to us every year.

Ceiling gets higher and higher, and they have about reached the point where the sky is the limit.

Now, here is what our elected should do: Start right now for this time next year working on this budget thing in advance.

All they have to do is what every happy homemaker knows:

If you don't have it, you don't get to spend it.

If you cannot spend for it, do without it.

Eat beans and cornbread instead of steak and all the fancy trimmings.

All of Congress go on Social Security retirement, as the only option because the wise know that no retirement plan is safe from probability of default, and Congress should walk with us, and not far from us.

Congress should look at every bill and trim off the fat, because the whole country is on slim pickings now.

If is "broke" fix it - and Congress is "broke" and needs fixing, because it is fixing to spiral the rest of us into broke that have not been put in the unemployment and losing-everything category already.

Congress, are you listening?

We can do without the ugly political ads on both sides, because the elected have make it ugly already on the rest of us. We don't work hard, sacrifice for ugly. We don't like ugly.

Is Congress willing to work hard at what the rest of us have to do - stay within a budget?

How difficult is that for the elected?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 2, 2011 | 6:25 a.m.

The last, and possibly most interesting, act of this pathetic drama has yet to occur - assuming that it does occur.

And what act would that be? It will be if or when the bond rating agencies downgrade United States treasury bonds from AAA rating to AA rating. Standard & Poor's has already hinted that it will do just that, possibly by October. So what? So the yield that must be payed on those debt obligations will increase.

Meanwhile the debt is going to be allowed to continue growing.

We've just witnessed a marvelous example of life imitating art. Are you familiar with Hans Christian Andersen's short story, "The Emperor's New Clothes"? The show just put on in Washout, D.C. has served to remind everyone, whether in the United States or elsewhere in the world, that the Emperor has no clothes. The Emperor is in fact buck naked, and has been for some time.

Our debt obligations do not deserve a AAA rating.

Both Australia and Canada at one time got themselves in this situation, but both worked at putting their financial houses in order and managed to have their credit ratings restored. Do the legislative and executive branches of our government have the moral fortitude to do that? Does that question contain its own answer?

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks August 2, 2011 | 8:02 a.m.

Don't you just love when DC can increase borrowing by 2.4 trillion and cut 99.7 million a 10/year and call it progress on the deficit. The sad thing is 80% or so of the American public believes it.

(Report Comment)
John Qwerty August 2, 2011 | 8:36 a.m.

2 very interesting points. Hartzler wanted the US to default on its bills and Long, a tea party activist, voted for raising the debt ceiling. I love Republicans.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 2, 2011 | 8:48 a.m.

JohnQwerty: At least have the guts to use your real name like most here. The left-to-right six letters typed with your left hand is not your real name.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 2, 2011 | 9:50 a.m.

@ Michael Williams:

Guess it's time I came clean for you and all others posting here (properly) under your REAL names.

My real name is Asdfg Zxcvb. I am a United States citizen by naturalization. I live in a storm sewer pipe near Columbia Mall.

I deeply regret my previous transgressions and promise to do better in the future.

[I encourage others to do the same, and you know who you are.]

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 2, 2011 | 9:54 a.m.

Ellis: lol

Some folks call me &%@#$%!^$*

It's a nickname, I think.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire August 2, 2011 | 9:56 a.m.

Send him to IRAQ!!!

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 2, 2011 | 9:57 a.m.

Ellis: Either you are from Brazil, Portugal, Poland, or someplace in the low countries.

Where vowels are in short supply.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub August 2, 2011 | 10:52 a.m.

What is interesting and seems to be clouded with all the theatrics about raising the debt ceiling, is that a very significant portion of the debt is owed to social security. Probably why the politicos want to reform SS so badly. They don't have the money to pay it. Of course if it were to wage war or win new evil friendships, the money would magically appear to pay for it, that would be borrowed without question, as we all know that is far more important than the health and welfare of our own citizens.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire August 2, 2011 | 11:51 a.m.

Spend your social security in IRAQ!!!

(Report Comment)
frank christian August 2, 2011 | 11:54 a.m.

G Straub - Still bent on comparison of the necessary action to protect the lives and property of the American people(war),with a liberal social program?

The Party fighting tooth and nail to prevent Any change to Social Security is that of Lyndon B. Johnson who first raided the Fund by Executive Order to pay for Vietnam.

Again, you will ignore this and write more trite anti-war crap, hoping someone somewhere will believe it.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire August 2, 2011 | 12:37 p.m.

Support more war! LBJ Did!

(It was necessary to occupy Iraq for this many years because they look sort of like some of those people who lived in Afghanistan...)

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 2, 2011 | 2:09 p.m.

Well. We're skroowed.

Can you say "double dip"?

BenB now has no choice....Here comes QE3.

(Report Comment)
Tim Trayle August 2, 2011 | 4:30 p.m.

Did anyone see the Pew Research Ctr's analysis of "how we got here" done back in April? They sought to analyze how a CBO projection of 2001, which predicted a surplus of $2.3 billion, turned out instead to be a deficit of over $10 trillion. According to their analysis, the cause of a $12.7 trillion shift in the debt situation, broke down like this:
1. Revenue declines due to two recessions, separate from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 28%
2. Defense spending increases: 15%
3. Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 13%
4. Increases in net interest: 11%
5. Other non-defense spending: 10%
6. Other tax cuts: 8%
7. Obama Stimulus: 6%
8. Medicare Part D: 2%
9. Other reasons: 7%
It makes for interesting reading, regardless of one's political position.

(Report Comment)
Gary Straub August 2, 2011 | 5:40 p.m.

So Frank is it safe to assume that you are pro-war? In my opinion, people who praise war have about as much credibility as the ones who decided to kill several hundred thousand people because someone may, possibly have WMD's that may, possibly be sent via a yet to be built missile to our bedrooms while we sleep.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams August 2, 2011 | 6:05 p.m.

Tim: Odd they did not include specific events that had such dramatic effects on economies.

tech bubble
housing bubble

Perhaps they are included somewhere in one or the other categories.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire August 2, 2011 | 7:13 p.m.

The first recession they are speaking of is the one that followed September 11. I believe the tech bubble was before that. The housing bubble is one of the things which is said to have caused the recent recession.

But what you mentioned would definitely fit under #1.

1. Revenue declines due to two recessions, separate from the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003: 28%

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer August 2, 2011 | 7:34 p.m.

We do indeed have a policy that requires folks to use their first and last names. I did not delete the comments here that violated that policy, but I did alert "John Qwerty" that he'll need to provide a name in order to post again.
— Joy Mayer, Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield August 3, 2011 | 7:58 a.m.

The NYT used to have a reporter whose middle name was 8. Her parents never gave her a middle name, so for whatever reason, she chose the number when she was a teenager. It sure did look weird in the byline no matter how many of her stories I read.

(Report Comment)
Ellie Funke August 3, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

The first 2 comments sum it up rather well. It could be that easy if egos and power-trips would be set aside. It can still be possible if the average citizen would quit looking at this as a Hollywood drama and start participating. Don't listen just to what they say, do your homework and your own critical thinking. So far all I hear from Obamas speeches are generalities and hype.

(Report Comment)
frank christian August 3, 2011 | 10:36 a.m.

Gary Straub - It appears possible for you to write, only in liberal talking points, even though the facts are there and everyone else has seen and accepted them.

Any credibility you might claim is lost with the senseless text of your post. The number of Democrats in the highest ranks that thought WMDs were ready to be used in Iraq have been published over and over. Iraqi gov't has announced that 87,215 of their people were killed. I have not seen numbers on those whipped, mutilated and branded since Saddam and sons were removed from the scene. No one I know is "pro-war" or has "praised" this or any other war. No one I know is overly concerned about a missile in their bedroom. The concern is that cells of terrorists not be left to plot unfettered by conscience, or living conditions until they can obtain the nuclear devise you so ridicule, and deliver it in person to our shores. The purpose would be just to see how many Americans they can kill. This may be too complicated for one resting a cloud above the fray. If you are unable to absorb these facts, I understand.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire August 3, 2011 | 10:52 a.m.

Send the terrorists to IRAQ!!!

(Report Comment)

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