Republicans Call Debt-Ceiling Vote 'Missed Opportunity' for Sanity

Image: Republicans Call Debt-Ceiling Vote 'Missed Opportunity' for Sanity From left: Reps. Paul Ryan, Marsha Blackburn and Paul Broun

Tuesday, 11 Feb 2014 10:36 PM

By Todd Beamon

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House Republicans told Newsmax on Tuesday that they opposed Speaker John Boehner's plan for a one-year extension of the nation's borrowing limit without restrictions because it would not hold President Barack Obama and Democrats accountable to work toward greater fiscal responsibility.

“This is a missed opportunity," said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin. "We need to pay our bills today and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow.

"I’m disappointed that the president and Senate Democrats refuse to get serious about our fiscal challenges,” Ryan said.

“Raising the debt ceiling without any guarantee of future spending cuts is irresponsible and only makes our nation’s debt problem worse," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee.

Rep. Paul Broun, of Georgia, said he voted against the bill because "we cannot continue to fuel the president’s spending addiction by increasing our nation’s borrowing limit and leaving our children and grandchildren with bills they simply cannot afford to pay."

The House vote on the "clean" spending bill was 221-201, with only 28 Republicans supporting the measure. Two Democrats, John Barrow of Georgia and Jim Matheson of Utah, joined the GOP in rejecting it.

The vote marked a dramatic shift from the confrontational fiscal approach of House Republicans over the past three years, culminating in October's 16-day partial government shutdown, which cost taxpayers $1.4 billion.

Discussions this time had concerned linking the debt ceiling to defunding Obamacare — part of last year's unsuccessful effort — or to a repeal of planned cuts in military pensions.

Under the legislation, the debt ceiling would be suspended until March 15, 2015, allowing the government to keep borrowing beyond its current $17.2 trillion limit. Afterward, however, the new ceiling would equal the amount of debt the government has accumulated in total.

The Senate could vote as early as Wednesday on the legislation.

The vote even split the top GOP leadership, with Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California backing the measure.

But the House's No. 4 Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the highest-ranking GOP woman in the lower chamber, rejected the bill, along with Rep. James Lankford of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, and Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"We can continue to ignore the problem of out-of-control spending, or we can address it," McMorris Rodgers said. "Unfortunately, the Democrats who run Washington refuse to seriously address our crushing debt in any other way than higher taxes, which isn’t fair to those in eastern Washington and across America.

"If President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate refuse to address our spending addiction when a debt limit increase is requested, when will they?" McMorris Rodgers asked.

Lankford said, "I could not vote to increase our national debt ceiling because the legislation did not offer long-term spending reforms or a plan to prevent having this same debate in the future."

"We must stop pretending our national debt is not a major issue even though it already exceeds a completely incomprehensible amount," he added. "On behalf of my daughters and future generations, I will not support taking the easy road today but make it harder in the future," Lankford said.

Said Walden, "Previous debt-limit negotiations have resulted in historic agreements that reduced spending. I stood ready to work in a bipartisan way on another such agreement, but the Democrats have been unwilling to discuss even modest proposals to reduce the deficit.”

In addition, the Club for Growth and other conservative groups had urged legislators to reject the measure.

"When we heard that House leadership was scheduling a clean debt-ceiling increase vote, we thought it was a joke," the Club for Growth said on its website. "But it's not. Something is very wrong with House leadership, or with the Republican Party.

"This is not a bill that advocates of limited government should schedule or support," the club said.

The Senate Conservatives Fund said in a fundraising letter that Boehner should be replaced.

"Republicans are giving up because they know that winning is impossible when their leaders are determined to lose," the group said on its website. "These leaders have telegraphed weakness to the Democrats and sabotaged conservative efforts so many times that Republicans now have no leverage.

"Unless we install a new leader who will actually go on offense, Democrats will never fear us and we will never have any leverage," the group said.

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Texas chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, told Newsmax that the House failed to "heed the warning that reaching the debt ceiling provides" and did not "use this speed bump on the road to national bankruptcy as an opportunity to deal with the root cause of our debt crisis: out-of-control spending."

"By passing the unconditional increase in the debt ceiling that the president demanded, the answer to this question sadly appears to be no," Hensarling said.

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma noted how Obama has refused to negotiate with Republicans over the debt limit. He reiterated that position heading into this round of talks.

"Every negotiation requires a negotiating partner, but the president has remained intransigent and refused to find common-sense solutions," Cole said. "I have shown time and again that I am willing to work in a bipartisan manner to solve our nation’s most pressing economic problems, and I will continue to do so.

"The legislation presented today is not that solution," Cole said.

Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said that "major reform is needed in an area that is swiftly consuming our GDP and is moving our entitlement programs toward insolvency. With today's vote, we continue to show an addiction to spending and a negligence to address the root of our spending problems."

Blackburn's "Volunteer State" State colleague, Rep. Diane Black, was even more blunt.

"Our looming debt crisis threatens the security of the nation we leave behind for future generations," she said. "Without needed reforms to address the drivers of our debt and deficits, the bill simply gives President Obama a blank check to continue borrowing against our children and grandchildren’s future."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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