Senate Matches House’s $984 Billion Debt-Limit Increase

Posted May 23, 2003 at 3:18pm

Boxed in by the House and itching to start the Memorial Day recess, the Senate agreed to raise the debt ceiling by almost $1 trillion Friday afternoon.

While Democrats offered eight of the maximum 12 amendments they were allowed, none passed, leaving the $984 billion raise intact.

If any amendments had been accepted, the bill would have bounced back to the empty House, which exited early Friday morning. If any changes had been required, the Treasury would have had to juggle the government’s mounting bills over the break.

One after another, Democratic Senators scolded Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for dismissing his chamber before the Senate had acted. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) implored Hastert to call back the House to “finish its business.”

The House Republicans deemed the ceiling raised when it passed the budget resolution conference report in April without ever voting separately on the issue. Republicans said they were only using a rule drafted when Democrats were in control. Further, they maintained that the Senate would agree to the administration’s request because the nation’s bills must be paid.

Senate Democrats let their frustration be known about being in the position of having the House dictate to them.

“We just do what the House tells us to do,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “The House told us, ‘Take it or leave it.’”

He further groused that the House left them in the position of not being able to pass worthy amendments that might ordinarily win bipartisan support.

In imploring the Senate to vote for his amendment, which would have generated an annual report to Congress about the effect its legislation has on the national deficit, he challenged Republicans to prove that “at least once today, you thought for yourself.”