Debt limit increase passes Senate; Democrats shift focus to jobs
The Senate approved the debt limit increase by a vote of 76 to 24 today, passing the final congressional hurdle to avoid default. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law later today.
“The debate was long, it wasn’t easy,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after the vote. “In the end, the two sides came together. That’s how our system works. Neither side got what they wanted; each side laments some of the things we had to give up but that’s the way it is…That’s what compromise is all about. It was a bipartisan compromise.”
The debt limit compromise would enact an initial round of $1 trillion in cuts from discretionary and defense spendings from 2012 to 2021. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits are protected from the cuts. Another round of $1.5 trillion in spending reductions will be determined by a bipartisan committee by Nov. 23, 2011. Congress will have until Dec. 23, 2011 to approve the bipartisan committee’s plan or trigger an automatic spending reduction that will be split 50/50 between domestic and defense budgets. In exchange, the Treasury receives up to $2.5 trillion to pay for the bills that Congress has already racked up through the end of 2012.
While Reid and other Senate Democrats expressed relief that today’s vote averted an unprecedented and embarrassing default, they warned that the work to create jobs and heal the economy is just beginning.
“With this debt reduction package completed, the decks are now cleared for a single-minded focus on jobs in September,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “We now have the chance to pivot away from budget battles to jobs. We can reset the debate and that’s what we intend to do. The jobs issue won’t have to play second fiddle to the deficit issue anymore. That’s what the American people want.”
Statement by Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on Aug. 2, 2011:
“The debate was long, it wasn’t easy. For weeks, the American people have watched and wondered whether Congress can get its job done.
“Well, we got it done and brought our economy back from the brink of disaster.
“In the end, the two sides came together. That’s how our system works. Neither side got what they wanted; each side laments some of the things we had to give up but that’s the way it is. It’s that way because that’s how our system works. That’s what compromise is all about. It was a bipartisan compromise.
“It wasn’t the right wing cap, cut and whatever it is over there – that was not bipartisan. It’s nothing that we could agree to, it was short term, it was really a disaster for America.
“This agreement cuts the deficit by $1 trillion and lays the groundwork for much more in the near future.
“We look forward to the work on the committee to make sure that millionaires, billionaires, and corporate jet owners and people who have those yachts who get tax benefits, oil companies who get these huge tax subsidies that that’s in the mix of thinking of what goes on. That’s what the select committee is going to be about.
“We need to do more for families. The number one job we have as a Congress must be creating jobs for the American people.
“There are a number of things that we’re going to do. Senator Schumer is going to address that in a few minutes as to the jobs agenda that we have. Today, we made sure America will pay its bills. Now it’s time to make sure all Americans can pay theirs.”
Statement by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) on Aug. 2, 2011:
“With this vote, 74 to 26, we have averted a crisis. America has avoided defaulting for the first time in our history on our national debt. The fears and concerns of Americans across the board were considered by this Congress and as a result we’ve come together on a bipartisan basis.
“I did not vote for this with a great deal of enthusiasm because the down payment on the deficit included in this bill comes primarily from working families and those who are struggling in America.
“If we’re going to have true deficit reduction to address this debt, we have to put everything on the table and bring everyone to the table for shared sacrifice.
“The joint committee has a particular responsibility here – called on together another $1 to $1.5 trillion in savings. Let us make sure that when we do it, we do it in a fair and just manner for all the people in America.
“And when we return, as Sen. Schumer will spell out, that we will address the number one issue in America: creating good-paying jobs right here at home for the people who are struggling in this economy. ”
Statement by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Aug. 2, 2011:
“Well, now Washington, the nation, the world can breathe a sigh of relief. The horrible crisis that would have occurred if we defaulted, the likelihood of a recession if we defaulted, has been averted, but we have a lot more work to do. A lot more work to do.
“The bill, which had things as Leader Reid and Leader Durbin mentioned, had a lot of things we didn’t like, had some things we liked – particularly making sure that no benefits in Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid were cut.
“But it’s now time for Congress to get back to our regularly scheduled programming and that means jobs.
“While Washington has been consumed with averting a default, our nation’s unemployment problem has been worsening. It’s time for jobs to be moved back to the front burner.
“With this debt reduction package completed, the decks are now cleared for a single-minded focus on jobs in September. By removing the threat of default for the next 18 months and by proving that both parties can come together to get our deficits under control, we have provided certainty to the credit markets.
“The debt limit agreement largely resolves the budgets for the next two years so the wrangling over spending should be greatly reduced in coming months.
“We now have the chance to pivot away from budget battles to jobs. We can reset the debate and that’s what we intend to do. The jobs issue won’t have to play second fiddle to the deficit issue anymore. That’s what the American people want. The public is glad to see that we’ve moved to reign in our deficits but now they will put the political premium on efforts to create jobs. As Democrats, that’s our strong suit, our high ground. We welcome this chance to shift the playing field to jobs.”
Statement by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) on Aug. 2, 2011:
“This was obviously a very important vote. We needed to raise the debt ceiling to avoid an economic calamity. We needed to cut spending and start getting our deficit and debt under control. But we still have a very long, critical road ahead of us, and we’re going to keep working hard to make sure that as we tackle these challenges in front of us that we do it in a fair and balanced way for Americans across this country.
“It is time now to get back to our priority number one: getting our economy back on track and people back to work.
“This vote that we just had begins to address the budget deficit. But as every family and business in this country knows we also have an infrastructure deficit, an education and skills training deficit, and a jobs deficit.
“We want to get back on track and address that critical issue so American families can feel secure again that they will have a paycheck and their family will be able to put food on the table and send their kids to college.
“Importantly, I think, this vote just showed us that we can work in a bipartisan way. I hope we can do that moving forward now to address the number one issue for every family: jobs. ”
- Senate.gov: Senate roll call vote for S. 365 (held on Aug. 2, 2011)
- Thomas.LOC.gov: S. 365 Budget Control Act of 2011 bill summary
- cspan.org: Senate Democrats respond to debt limit vote
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