President Obama signing the debt deal into law last Tuesday
The 111th Congress
Despite the nay-sayers, the ‘tea-partyers,’ the hardliners, and the ‘one-termers,’ the Congress (both houses) passed a debt bill and sent it to the White House for the President to sign … in time
After months of fierce partisan bickering last Sunday night, the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House agreed on a compromise bill, and telephoned President Barack Obama, who immediately reported it to the American people. The next step came the following day when the full House voted in the affirmative for the bill followed by the Senate the day after. At that time, the White House optimistically said, “If the bill were presented to the President, he would sign it.”
The vote in the House was 269-161 and in the Senate, it was 74 to 26 for the bill. The Senate’s vote came just hours before the Treasury’s authority to borrow funds ran out. Observers said that it was a hard-won compromise to lift the government’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling enough to last beyond the November 2012 elections, but that no one was totally satisfied with the final bill. It was a case of equal opportunity dissatisfaction. President Barack Obama immediately signed it into law, without any traditional White House ceremony.
In simple terms, the legislation combined an increase in the government’s borrowing cap with a future of more than $2 trillion of budget cuts over the upcoming decade. However, it appears that within the details, there is still a long and potentially difficult battle between all the parties ahead–the Democrats, tea party-powered House Republicans and President Obama. House Democrats have expressed outrage at the White House for how it handled the debt-ceiling negotiations, claiming that in caving in to the Republicans, the administration left them in the dark. One newspaper headlined, “Debt deal presents small wins for Dems, big win for GOP–and big gamble for Obama.”
After signing the bill, President Obama said, “It shouldn’t take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to get together and do their jobs.” Then he added, “Our economy didn’t need Washington to come along with a manufactured crisis to make things worse.” The White House then issued the following statement: “S. 365, the ‘Budget Control Act of 2011,’ which provides for authority to increase the public debt limit by between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion; establishes discretionary spending limits for FYs 2012-2021; requires the House and Senate to each vote on passage of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution; and establishes a congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.”
The distaste for the bill can be illustrated in the words of some Democrats. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), stated, “This deal is a sugar-coated, satan sandwich. If you lift the bun, you will not like what you see.”
Other members of the CBC were just as forceful in their reaction, including Rep. Barbara Lee (CA-9) and Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) who did not support the bill. “Our negotiators weren’t tough enough,” Rep. Waters said. “They didn’t do the work.” And prior to the vote, Rep. Lee said, “I support the President using the 14th amendment, if necessary, to raise the debt ceiling, and I will be voting, No!” And she did.
In an interview with ABC News’ Top Line today, prior to the vote, freshman Democratic Rep. Karen Bass (CA-33) said, “The bottom line for us, is a balanced approach. If you’re going to have cuts, you’re going to have to find some ways to raise revenues.” That did not seem to be the case; it did not happen that way.
It is important to note some of the public thoughts on the debt fiasco at different ends of the spectrum.
In a recent interview, former President Bill Clinton said that if he were president, he would not hesitate to raise the debt-ceiling himself under authority that is granted by the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore he added that the 14th Amendment allows for the president to ensure the nation’s debt is covered, and he would “force the courts to stop me.”
Also, during funeral services last Friday, Rev. Cecil Murray in commenting about the “protracted debt war” being played out in the nation’s capital between “the donkey and the elephant” (Democrats and Republicans), noted his concern for what the Democrats may or may not be giving up. Rev. Murray said, “I hope the donkey does not become a jackass.”
Though the situation, relative to law, is not the same in Washington as it is in Sacramento, the Congress should take a long, hard look at passing legislation relative to its members’ salaries, so that if the budget or anything similar to the recent debt deal is not passed in the time that is legislated for it to be done–like in Sacramento recently–no salary checks will be paid out to members. (Matter of fact, one legislator said, that he believed that it was the fact that Sacramento lawmakers were given that ultimatum, is what produced a budget on time).
Ni Cole of Auburn Hills, MI recently commented, “Why should politicians care about default and downgraded credit ratings … they are millionaires and we’re just collateral damage in a game of politics.”
Finally, in all of the debates that hav been taking place and continue beyond the passage and signing of the debt deal, no one seem to have mentioned the significant impact on the economy/the budget/the debt that immediately bringing the troops home would have, notwithstanding much of the nation is calling for curbing/reducing the bloated defense budget. Some legislators and economists have said that the U.S. government spends more on defense than all the rest of the world combined. Former U.S. Attorney general Ramsey Clark recently said that the defense budget could be slashed by as much as 90 percent and the country would still remain militarily secured.