In another dramatic evening on Capitol Hill, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to cut spending and raise the debt ceiling. The Democratic-controlled Senate moved quickly, however, to vote to kill the House bill. It's a high-stakes political battle to avoid the United States' first ever national default on its $14.3 trillion debt by August 2.
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Friday evening got off to a good start for congressional Republicans. The result of the vote tally in House of Representatives likely came as a relief to House Speaker John Boehner. Congressman Charles Bass was in the chair to announce the vote results.
“The yeas are 218, the nays are 210, the bill is passed. Without objection, a motion to reconsider is laid upon the table,” said Bass.
The revised “Budget Control” bill calls for raising the U.S. borrowing limit in a exchange for more than $900 billion in spending cuts over the next 10 years. The vote passed without a single Democratic vote and 22 Republican lawmakers voted against it.
Minutes before late Friday’s vote, an impassioned Boehner was cheered by most of his Republican caucus, as he challenged Democrats to come forward with their plan.
“This House has acted," said Boehner. "And it is time for the administration, and time for our colleagues across the aisle, put something on the table! Tell us where you are! [Cheers and applause]
Boehner had scheduled a vote on his bill Thursday, but he had to pull it from the floor after failing to convince enough Tea Party members of his caucus to support it. To avert a potential political disaster, Boehner added a provision which would force both houses of Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment before the debt ceiling is raised again early next year- something analysts say is very unlikely to happen.
But just two hours after the House vote, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid moved to hold a vote to kill the House bill, and it passed with 59 Senators voting for it and 41 voting against it. Senator Reid is pushing the Senate to pass his own separate version of a bill that would cut spending and raise the debt ceiling until after the 2012 elections.
Earlier, Democratic senators warned that requiring that a balanced budget amendment pass both chambers of Congress would virtually guarantee that the nation defaults on its debt when the proposed second vote on raising the debt ceiling is held in six months time.
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois blasted Republicans for adding what Democrats described as a “poison pill” to the bill.
“Not enough that they [Republicans] are willing to hold our economy hostage with the debt ceiling extension. Not enough that we stop the workings of this government on so many issues that we should be working on," said Durbin. "But now, now the speaker has brought in the requirement to extend the debt ceiling we have to amend the Constitution of the United States of America. This is the most outrageous suggestion I have heard.”
Reid has called on Republican Minority leader Mitch McConnell to join with him to put forward a bipartisan bill which can avert a default.
“The security of our nation, literally the security of our nation, every family, is at stake here," said Reid. "If the debt ceiling is not increased, every American family will feel an increase in their taxes, in various ways, higher payments on all their debts, credit cards, loans they take out to put their kids through school, car payments, mortgages on their houses.”
The White House issued a statement saying the House bill would have the United States face another debt ceiling crisis in just a few months. President Barack Obama called on Congress to use the Reid bill as a basis to agree on a bipartisan solution to prevent what he called an avoidable crisis early next week. The president again called on Americans to call their congressman’s office if they want a compromise bill that he can sign before Tuesday, resulting in a high volume of phone calls coming in to congressional offices on Capitol Hill.