The House on Tuesday passed conservatives’ proposal tying strict spending cuts and a balanced budget amendment to an increase in the debt ceiling. But the measure has no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate, and President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.
The Cut, Cap and Balance bill passed on a largely party-line vote of 234 to 190, with five members of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats breaking ranks with their party to vote in favor of the bill. They were Reps. Dan Boren (Okla.), Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jim Matheson (Utah), Mike McIntyre (N.C.) and Heath Shuler (N.C.).
Nine Republicans opposed the GOP bill. One of them, Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), said the bill didn’t go far enough. “While I embrace the principles of Cut, Cap and Balance, the motion does not go far enough in fundamentally restructuring the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars,” the 2012 presidential candidate said in a statement. “The principles found in this bill are a step in the right direction toward the fundamental restructuring we need in the way Washington spends taxpayer dollars.”
Discussion of the Cut, Cap and Balance plan dominated the floor Tuesday, with Democrats asserting that the Republican Study Committee-backed measure would essentially enact Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) far-reaching budget outline by slashing Medicare and making historic cuts in the size of government. But Republicans trumpeted the legislation and maintained it should precede any effort to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
“The president has said now for once he wants a balanced approach. Well, guess what: In Cut, Cap and Balance, he does get a balanced approach,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said at a news conference earlier in the day. “He gets his increase in the debt limit of $2.4 trillion. What we get are real cuts in spending and real reforms in place that will make sure that this problem never, ever happens again.”
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer blasted the plan in a floor statement, saying it does not get Congress closer to raising the debt ceiling ahead of Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department forecasts that the nation will start defaulting on its debts.
“We need to stop fiddling and need to do our work and make sure that America can pay its debt, because if it can’t, every one of our constituents will lose and our country will lose,” the Maryland Democrat said.
The House vote was overshadowed Tuesday by a $3.7 trillion deficit reduction proposal unveiled by the Senate’s bipartisan “gang of six” to strong support in that chamber. But Republicans maintained that the Cut, Cap and Balance plan was the way to go.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.