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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid