News / USA

US Congress Prepares for High-Stakes Debt Votes

House Speaker John Boehner, who with house representatives must move quickly on an agreement to avert a potentially devastating default on US obligations, walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, August. 1, 2011
House Speaker John Boehner, who with house representatives must move quickly on an agreement to avert a potentially devastating default on US obligations, walks on Capitol Hill in Washington, August. 1, 2011
Michael Bowman

The White House and congressional leaders of both major political parties are pressing rank-and-file legislators to support a last-gasp bipartisan deal to trim U.S. government spending and raise the federal borrowing limit. Votes are expected in both houses of Congress ahead of Tuesday’s deadline to raise the debt ceiling or risk a possible default on U.S. obligations.

Financial “Armageddon”

One day before the United States faces what President Barack Obama has called financial “Armageddon,” congressional passage of the compromise debt bill is far from assured. In a final effort to round up wavering votes, Obama dispatched Vice President Joseph Biden to Capitol Hill to address Democratic lawmakers from both chambers.

US Vice President Joe Biden records the weekly speech, May 27 2011
US Vice President Joe Biden records the weekly speech, May 27 2011

Biden was asked if he believes the bill cutting trillions of dollars in federal spending and extending the borrowing limit through next year will pass.

“Oh, that is up to the House [of Representatives],” he said.

It is in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives where the vote count is expected to be particularly close, given fierce opposition already expressed by its most conservative Republican - and progressive Democratic - members.

Mikulski: far from enthusiastic

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 wealthy.

But even in the Senate, the vice president clearly had convincing to do. Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland says she does not want to risk a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, but is far from enthusiastic about proposed cuts in federal spending that could harm the poor and vulnerable.

“I also need to know more about just where we are heading in terms of what these [budget] cuts mean,” she said.

Tea Party

On the Republican side, several members of the fiscally conservative Tea Party faction say the bill does not go far enough to rein in what they see as an out-of-control Washington spending binge. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida says he will vote ‘no’.

“I ran [for office] because I wanted this country to be put on a sustainable spending path. This bill does not do that," said Rubio. "There will come a time when we [the U.S. government] will not be able to borrow money, not because of the debt limit, but because our lenders will not lend it to us anymore. This plan does nothing to prevent that day from coming.”

Compromise

President Barack Obama sits with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio (L), as he met with Republican and Democratic leaders regarding the debt ceiling, at the White House (File Photo - July 14, 2011)
President Barack Obama sits with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio (L), as he met with Republican and Democratic leaders regarding the debt ceiling, at the White House (File Photo - July 14, 2011)

In announcing the agreement late Sunday, President Obama said the deal is far from perfect, but better than doing nothing and watching the nation fall into financial ruin. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid echoed that message Monday.

“No one got what they wanted. Everyone had to give something up. It was a compromise," said Reid. "It is not always easy to get two sides to reach consensus. But that is what we did. We did it on a bipartisan basis.”

Republican congressional leaders who helped negotiate the deal with the White House and their Democratic counterparts say the bill achieves less in deficit reduction than they had hoped. But they note the bill contains no tax increases, a key Republican demand from the beginning of contentious negotiations that lasted several months.

Two rounds of spending cuts

If enacted, the bill provides for two rounds of spending cuts. The first round would produce $900 billion in budget savings over 10 years. The bill mandates the creation of a bipartisan congressional committee to identify more than a trillion in additional deficit reduction that would be subject to an up-or-down vote at the end of this year. The bill forces automatic cuts if the committee is unable to reach an agreement.

In return for deficit reduction, the bill would raise the U.S. debt ceiling by more than $2 trillion, enough to assure the federal government’s solvency through next year’s national elections. The U.S. national debt stands at $14.3 trillion.

You May Like

Disappointing Report on China's Economy Shakes Markets

In London and New York shares lost 3 percent, while Paris and Germany dropped around 2.4 percent More

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
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 Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
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 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 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.

VOA Blogs