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 Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid