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

Arab League Delays Forming Joint Force

Delay grows out of one of original obstacles facing pan-Arab force, analysts say: 'They may agree on the principle, but they continue to argue about how to implement the project' More

Pakistan Demands Afghanistan Protect Its Kabul Mission, Staff

Officials in Islamabad say Afghan agents are harassing Pakistani embassy personnel, particularly those living outside of mission’s compound More

US Survey: Trump Lead Grows in Republican Presidential Contest

Quinnipiac University poll shows brash billionaire real estate mogul with 28 percent support among Republican voters 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs