WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan compromise bill to raise the United States’ borrowing limit just hours before the nation faced default on its financial obligations on Tuesday, but the measure did not win the support of all of New Jersey’s Congressional delegation.
Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez were two of just six Senate Democrats to vote against the legislation Tuesday. With the exception of Democrats Frank Pallone, Donald Payne and Rush Holt and Republican Scott Garrett, all of New Jersey’s House delegation voted for the bill.
The legislation raises the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt limit while reducing federal spending by $2.4 trillion over the next ten years. The deal still leaves the nation with a projected $22 trillion debt ten years from now and may not prevent agencies from downgrading the nation’s Triple-A credit rating.
For now, compromise brings an end to the bitter ideological fight in Congress that threatened to destabilize the global economy. Democrats favor deficit reduction plans that combined tax increases for the wealthy with moderate spending cuts. Republicans do not support any tax increases and want larger spending reductions.
The passage of the bill triggered $900 billion in spending cuts. A bipartisan committee will be tasked with recommending an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by the end of November, to be put to a vote in Congress by the end of the year. If the committee proposals do not win approval, it would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts.
“[T]he deal is just a first step in addressing the federal government’s unsustainable fiscal plan,” said Republican Rep. Leonard Lance. “It does provide a responsible framework for future steps to reduce the budget deficit.”
Lance has probably earned himself another Tea Party primary challenge over his votes to increase the debt ceiling, according to observers. Lance faced three Tea Party-affiliated challengers in the 2010 Republican primary. In April, Lance supported a previous Republican House budget bill that included a section raising the debt ceiling to $16.2 trillion in 2012 and to $23.1 trillion in steps over the following eight years.
Members of MoveOn.org demonstrated outside Lance’s office last week, urging him to compromise for the good of his constituents. “The GOP is willing literally to take food out of the mouths of hungry babies than ask the rich to pay their fair share,” said Meara Nigro of Berkeley Heights. “That is simply immoral and the Republicans should be ashamed.”
Garrett opposed this week’s bill because it is not a long-term solution to America’s fiscal problems. “The American people wanted to see us come up with an actual solution to address our deficit and debt crisis, not another ‘deal’ rushed through Congress at the last minute,” he said. “Aside from an insufficient amount of spending cuts and the threat of tax hikes on the American people, what is most unfortunate about this bill is the fact that it doesn’t address the exploding costs of our entitlement programs, which are by far the biggest threat to our credit rating.”
Lautenberg’s “no” vote came about for different reasons. “Our debt ceiling had to be raised – as was done 18 times under President Reagan and seven times under President George W. Bush – but it shouldn’t be done in a way that diminishes access to education and health care, a cleaner environment, or homeland security,” the senator said. “Our country’s financial future must include a balanced approach of shared sacrifice; taking trillions from programs that help our children, seniors, and middle class, while asking for nothing more from the wealthy or corporations raking in record profits, is not the picture of a fair and democratic society.”
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