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

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor 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.
Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisisi
X
March 06, 2015 12:28 AM
There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Winter Weather Strikes Eastern US...Again!

A new wintry blast has hit more than 20 states in the U.S. Midwest and Mid-Atlantic region, adding more snow to the piles from previous storms. Tired of shoveling snow, breaking the ice and dealing with accidents, flight delays and property damage, most Americans hope this is the last bout of cold for the season. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Myanmar's Traditional Fashion Choices Endure

The sartorial choices of Myanmar’s men and women quickly catch the eye of any visitor to the tropical Southeast Asian country. But at a time when Myanmar’s political and economic opening is bringing affordable western fashions to the masses, will the country’s unique fashion trends endure? VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Yangon explores that question.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More