Senate Passes, President Signs Deal To Raise Debt Ceiling
After six weeks, some would say seven months, of contentious and often frustrating debate, the debate over raising the ceiling on the National Debt finally came to an end today:
With strong bipartisan support, the Senate passed a deal 74-26 to raise the nation’s debt ceiling on Tuesday, less than 12 hours before the Treasury was to begin default on its financial obligations.
The bargain —already passed by the House, 269 to 161, on Monday — will provide a $900 billion boost to the debt ceiling in exchange for a combination of $2.5 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade.
Despite receiving a strong approval vote from the upper chamber, however, virtually every senator speaking out in its support expressed deep dissatisfaction with the legislation’s content.
“At the end of the day I will vote for this measure, but obviously with a heavy heart,” said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Tuesday morning.
“At the end of the day nobody is going to be totally happy with this bill,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). “We would have had more cuts if I had written this bill.”
The 26 votes in opposition to the bargain were made up of 19 conservative Republicans who held the opinion the deal would not do enough to reduce the nation’s deficit and seven caucusing progressive Democrats who argued the absence of tax hikes made it untenable.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), for example, warned the bill’s meager cuts would only serve to delay default.
“We are headed towards ruin if we continue on this path of spending money we don’t have,” said Paul. “For decades, America has lived beyond her means. A nation that lives beyond her means will eventually live beneath her means. That day is coming.”
“A day of reckoning looms,” Paul warned.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said he could not support the deal because it relied on the middle class rather than the rich to pay for deficit reduction.
“I cannot in good conscience support a plan where soldiers, seniors, students and working families must endure trillions in cuts while oil companies, billionaires, and corporate jet owners are not asked to pay one cent toward shared sacrifice,” said Menendez.
The President has already signed the bill into law. And so, it ends.
In some ways it was a rather extraordinary moment in American history since a debate over raising the debt ceiling in a time of a national economic slowdown turned into a debate over cutting spending and reducing the role of government. Some have referred to it as the beginning of an age of austerity, but only time will tell if that is true. In any case, though, it was a bizarre couple of weeks the consequences of which have yet to be determined.
Now, let’s get Congress headed off on vacation before they do any more damage.