News / USA

US Senate Approves Debt Ceiling Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the media after a closed door meeting with Senate Democrats and Vice President Joseph Biden, at the U.S. Capitol, on August 1, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the media after a closed door meeting with Senate Democrats and Vice President Joseph Biden, at the U.S. Capitol, on August 1, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Michael Bowman

After months of partisan gridlock, both houses of the U.S. Congress have approved a bill to raise the federal borrowing limit and cut government spending. Tuesday’s 74 - 26 Senate vote came one day after the bill passed in the House of Representatives. The bill goes to the White House to be signed into law by President Barack Obama, on the very day the U.S. government’s ability to cover its obligations was to expire.

U.S. Debt Deal Facts

  • It allows the debt ceiling to rise by up to $2.4 trillion - enough to keep the country borrowing money until 2013.
  • It includes spending cuts that could reach $2.5 trillion, to exceed the amount of the debt ceiling increase.
  • It initally cuts spending by at least $900 billion over 10 years, and creates a bipartisan budget committee to find additional deficit reduction of at least $1.5 trillion.
  • If the committee fails by late November to find additional ways to reduce the deficit, the failure would trigger automatic cuts across the government to take effect in 2013. Among them would be the first reduction in Defense Department spending in decades.
  • The deal does not include the Republicans' goal of requiring a balanced-budget amendment. It also leaves out the Democrats' plan to end some tax cuts for the wealth

Discontent

The Senate vote capped one of the most contentious legislative battles in recent history, one that laid bare deep philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans as the U.S. government teetered on the edge of insolvency.

Rarely is legislation decried by supporters and opponents alike. Consider this comment by Democratic Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, who voted for the bill:

“This deal stinks. And it stinks to high heaven,” Udall said.

Democrats blasted the bill for imposing deep spending cuts that could harm the poor and vulnerable without collecting any additional revenue from the affluent. Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said the bill’s only merit is that it averts, for now, the specter of default and financial calamity.

“The choice here is between a faulty piece of legislation, on the one hand, and severe damage to our economy and even-greater joblessness, on the other,” Levin said.


Many Republicans were equally critical, complaining that less than $3 trillion in budget savings over ten years is wholly inadequate for a nation facing a $14.3 trillion national debt.

“This so-called solution does not fundamentally change our spending and debt picture," said Senator David Vitter of Louisiana. "It just plays around the margins. It does not make any big change whatsoever.”

The best other Republicans could say is that the bill constitutes the initial round of a long fight to improve America’s finances. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee put it this way:

“Today’s vote is an opportunity to take an important step in the right direction. We should take it, and then get ready to find ways to take the next step, and the next step, and the next," he said.

The bill

The bill mandates two rounds of federal spending cuts while providing a means to extend the federal borrowing limit through the end of next year. While satisfying Republican demands for no tax increases, it also specifies no cuts to costly programs championed by Democrats that provide income and health care for retirees.

Polls showed the American public angry and disillusioned by the partisanship and gridlock that consumed Washington for months before the eleventh-hour deal was struck.

What do people think?

On vacation in Washington, New Orleans city planner Nathan Schreuer was visiting the Capitol as lawmakers prepared to vote. Asked if his faith in America’s democratic process has been shaken by Washington’s political paralysis of recent months, Schreuer shook his head.

“No, I would say strengthened. I appreciate the fact that we continue to come together with different opinions and find solutions," Schreuer said. "It can always be done better. Democracy is far from perfect. It is a little sloppy.”

Nearby, a group of tourists from China was peering up at the Capitol’s majestic rotunda dome. One man, who declined to be identified, said creditor nations like China want to see America’s fiscal imbalances improve.

“I think this is correct. They [the United States] should save the money, instead of the [Afghan/Iraq] war. They should save the budget, to do education and business instead of other things,” the tourist said.

A woman in the group added that, by making sacrifices now, the United States can assure a better future.

“To suffer a little bit, but things are going to be better. I still think it [the United States] is a strong country,” she said.

Many U.S. lawmakers say preserving that strength during a time of fiscal austerity will be a primary challenge of the years to come.


You May Like

Ebola Brings Sickness, Fear, Anger

Cornell University Professor Stacey Langwick considers cultural, social aspects of outbreak More

British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign Jihadists More

Violent Quarantine Clashes Hamper Liberia's Struggle to Contain Ebola

Anger, misinformation and mistrust of government hampering efforts to contain the deadly virus More

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.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid