Debt Bill Passes Senate, Heads to Obama Hours Before Deadline
Bill raises debt ceiling, cuts spending and looks forward
The U.S. Senate voted on Tuesday to pass a compromise bill that will raise the debt ceiling before the midnight deadline and create a committee to suggest further budget changes by November.
Despite reservations from both parties, the bill received bipartisan support in the Senate, passing 74-26. Both South Carolina senators voted against the bill.
On Monday, the bill passed in the House 269-161, though all five Republican representatives from South Carolina voted against it.
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint voted against the bill. DeMint championed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act and although the compromise bill includes cuts and a cap on spending, it does not require the addition of a balanced budget amendment.
"This debt deal doesn't solve anything, it puts America at risk," DeMint said on Twitter. "At the end of his four-year term, Obama will be responsible for nearly $6 trillion in new debt. More than any other president. Washington's debt deal doesn't change our course, it taps the brakes as we speed toward a fiscal cliff."
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham (photo at right) also voted against the bill despite the threat of possible default if it failed. He said his primary concerns involved cuts in defense funding.
"Every Democrat, Republican and Independent should want a strong national defense in a time of great danger," Graham said on MSNBC minutes after the vote. "Putting the defense department on the table and subjecting it to $600 billion in cuts above what's already being proposed is irresponsible. ... It represents a demoralizing event to our men and women in uniform and I think, from a Republican point of view, a philiosophical shift that I don’t want to have any part of."
Graham added that he supported some strategies to raise revenues that didn't include tax rate increases.
"From my point of view, closing loopholes and deductions and paying down debt with that money is a good use of the money," Graham said, "so I'm not in the camp that you can’t ever have revenues to solve our national debt problem."
In an earlier statement, Graham said:
"I cannot in good conscience support this deal. Simply stated, it locks us into more debt, bigger government and most devastating of all, a weakened defense infrastructure at a time when we face growing threats.
"This agreement adds over $7 trillion in new debt over the next decade and only makes small reductions in future spending," Graham added. "We hardly address the future growth of entitlements, a major contributor of future budgetary problems. Instead of our nation running toward bankruptcy we will be walking toward bankruptcy.
"If fully implemented, the consequences to our nation’s defense infrastructure would be severe. And these deep cuts would come at a time when threats to our nation are increasing, not declining. What has happened to the Party of Reagan who viewed the primary purpose of the federal government was to provide a strong national defense?
"This agreement legitimizes the concept that defense spending is not only equal to other areas of federal spending, but is of lesser importance. This is a philosophical shift I will have no part of.
“I fear this agreement will destroy our nation’s defense infrastructure at a time when we need them the most. The only part of our nation’s budget which is really exposed to serious consequences under this compromise is the Department of Defense.
"I have always believed we have to raise our nation’s debt-ceiling but it should be done in a responsible manner. I support raising the debt-ceiling for a period of nine months, the historical average since 1940, accompanied by a dollar-to-dollar spending cuts to debt-ceiling increase. In effect, this basically is the first portion of the Boehner-Reid proposal."
President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law later on Tuesday, allowing for an immediate $400 billion increase in the nation's debt ceiling.
"Both parties share power in Washington and both parties need to take responsibility for improving this economy," Obama said. "It shouldn’t take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs. There is already a quiet crisis going on in the lives of a lot of families in a lot of communities all across the country."
According to an infographic from the New York Times, Spending caps associated with the bill, which aim to trim $917 billion over 10 years, would begin on Oct. 1.
The special 12-member House-Senate committee must then submit its proposal for an additional $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion of cuts or revenue increases by Nov. 23. Congress must then vote on the committee's plan, with no amendments or adjustments, by Dec. 23.
Neither party claimed victory with the passage of the bill, which was the product of weeks of political infighting. Many Republicans argued that the spending cuts were insufficient to address the seriousness of America's debt problem while Democrats expressed disappointment that the deal included no mandatory revenue increases whatsoever.