The House on Wednesday kicked off the new Congressional session by passing a resolution to reject President Barack Obama’s call to raise the debt limit by another $1.2 trillion.
The resolution was passed by Republicans on a mostly party-line vote of 239 to 176. Rep. David Dreier (R. –Calif.) was the only Republican voting no, six Democrats voted yes.
However, the largely symbolic resolution is not expected to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate during a vote next week or advance to the White House, which means the national debt will automatically increase to $16.4 trillion.
The so-called resolution of disapproval is the only option available to stop what are now automatic debt increases triggered by the Budget Control Act that passed the House in August by a vote of 269-161 with 174 Republicans and 95 Democrats voting in favor of the new law.
There have already been two automatic increases since its passage totaling $9 billion, but Wednesday’s action sought to block until after the November election the third and final increase expected.
Rep. Dan Burton (R. –Ind.) said Republicans share in the blame for raising the debt ceiling, and that they should never have passed the Budget Control Act to put the increases on autopilot.
“We gave the president carte blanche and it’s dead wrong,” Burton said. “This president has control that no president has had in history … able to raise the debt ceiling without us being able to do a darn thing about it. This body made a huge mistake. And the American people need to know it.”
The Budget Act also created a SuperCommittee to make spending cuts along with the debt increases, but that panel failed to come up with a solution and dissolved before the Thanksgiving holiday.
Republicans said they were using the resolution as a protest vote because of the SuperCommittee’s failure, as well as the abdication of Senate Democrats to pass a budget in nearly 1,000 days.
“This type of debt is not sustainable,” said Rep. Tom Reed (R. –N.Y.). “This resolution will send a message to the nation and to the world that this chamber is going to lead, and not hide. We are going to deal with the issue of national debt once and for all.”
“The path we are on is a path of bankruptcy and it will destroy the American dream if we do not step up to the plate and lead ourselves out of this fiscal nightmare,” Reed said.
Citing the Senate Democrats’ budget failure, Rep. Jeff Duncan (R. –S.C.) said it was “embarrassing” for the Obama administration to ask for more money “without even pretending to know how you budget it.”
“Sooner or later we are going to have to stop this debt train from derailing our country,” Duncan said. “This must stop and we must be the responsible adults in the room to stop it.”
Several Republicans said Obama was operating under a double-standard, and pointed to the president’s opposition to raising the debt ceiling when he was in the Senate: “America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership,” Obama said during a March 16, 2006 floor speech.
Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (R. –N.Y.) said it is the Obama administration’s “lack of leadership” that is “deeply concerning.”
But Democrats called the Republican resolution “pious baloney,” “counter-productive,” and an “absurd game.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D. –Colo.) said Congress should not be spending money on a Christmas binge if its members weren’t willing to pay when the credit card bills came due in January.
“This is all Monday night quarterbacking after the fact,” Polis said. “The money has been spent.”
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D. –Md.), the minority’s whip, cited a recent poll that showed 84 percent of Americans disapproving of the way Congress is doing its job.
“I don’t know that the other 16 percent are paying attention, because we’re not doing our job well. And this certainly is not doing our job well,” Hoyer said. “The reason it’s not doing our job well is because it is a pretense. A sham. This legislation is to pay bills that we’ve already incurred. Whether it was incurred with your votes or our votes, we have incurred those expenses.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (R. –Ohio), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the interest payments on the national debt will cost more this year than the 1972 federal budget.
“We have to stop the crazy spending if we’re going to stop this crazy borrowing,” Jordan said.
Added Rep. Steve Scalise (R. –La.): “Obama has left us with a record of debt, despair and downgrade. We cannot afford the Obama economy.”