News / USA

    US Debt Ceiling Votes Invite Partisanship

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (file photo)
    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (file photo)
    Michael Bowman

    In coming weeks, the U.S. Congress is widely expected to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling, thereby allowing it to borrow additional funds and service America’s $14 trillion national debt. Congress has never failed to raise the borrowing limit - to do so would be to risk default and invite financial calamity.

    But few votes are more distasteful to lawmakers than going on record to authorize greater U.S. indebtedness - votes that always invite partisan sniping, grandstanding, and, this time around, hard bargaining.

    Except for a brief period in the late 1990s when the United States enjoyed a budget surplus, the federal government has had to borrow more and more money to cover the cumulative indebtedness of yearly deficits. And every time the government bumps up against its borrowing limit, Congress has to step in and raise the debt ceiling.

    Typically, the party in power serves as the voice of reason and responsibility, urging lawmakers to do what is necessary to keep the government afloat. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the top congressional member of President Barack Obama's Democratic Party, recently put it this way:

    “We have no choice," said Harry Reid. "Everybody in the world recognizes that this country cannot default on its debt. We have a credit card [bill] we have to pay.”

    But, for the minority party, debt ceiling votes provide an irresistible temptation for partisan bickering.

    This is what Reid had to say as minority leader in 2006, when Republicans controlled the Senate. “How can the Republican majority in this Congress explain to their constituents that trillions of dollars of new debt is good for our economy," he asked.

    That year, Senate Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling, confident that the Republican majority would provide the votes needed to increase the borrowing limit and avert a fiscal crisis. Among those casting a ‘no’ vote was then-Senator Obama, who argued that raising the debt limit amounted to a failure of economic leadership under then-President George W. Bush.

    Today, President Obama sees things differently. White House spokesman Jay Carney had this to say about Mr. Obama’s 2006 vote in the Senate:

    “The president regrets that vote and thinks it was a mistake," said Carney. "He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote you can play around with.”

    Democrats are not the only ones to flip-flop on debt ceiling votes. In 2002, Republican Representative Mike Pence of Indiana spoke on the House floor before voting to raise the debt ceiling:

    “I came here believing, as so many people I represent believe, that if you owe debts, [you should] pay debts," said Pence.

    Today, many Republicans are refusing to commit to a debt ceiling increase, unless President Obama agrees to deep spending cuts in federal programs long-championed by Democrats.

    Congressman Pence earlier this year said, “I will not support an increase in the debt ceiling without real and meaningful changes in spending."

    Analysts say there is nothing new about partisanship in debt ceiling votes. Marc Goldwein is policy director of the Washington-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

    “There has always been politics behind the debt ceiling," said Goldwein. "And it is always the party in power that gets stuck with the vote, and the party not in power that blames the party in power for creating deficits that got us here in the first place. That said, that is not a reason to not use the debt ceiling to focus on our debt issues. We have to raise the debt ceiling, but we also need to start thinking seriously about our long term debt situation.”

    The United States bumped up against the current borrowing limit of $14.2 trillion last month. Economists say the nation risks default if the debt ceiling is not raised by August.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora