Originally published Aug. 4, 2011
By Neil Schulman
Local Representatives Rush Holt and Frank Pallone were among the 161 congressmen who voted against the controversial bill to raise the debt ceiling.
Pallone and Holt, both Democrats, were among the four New Jersey congressmen to vote against the bill. Other state representatives who opposed it were Scott Garrett, a Republican, and Donald Payne, a Democrat.
The bill, viewed by both liberals and conservatives as an unsatisfying compromise, divided both parties, splitting Democrats 95-95 and Republicans 174-66. However, the last-minute proposal did pass, spurred on in part by the fact the U.S. could default on what it owes unless the ceiling was raised. It ultimately passed with 269 votes.
The bill raises the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, but also calls for almost a trillion dollars in spending cuts and requires a committee be created to recommend another $1.5 trillion in cuts.
Holt issued a statement saying that he had to vote against it because it would harm the needy at the expense of corporate interests, and that it was in no way fair.
“[T]he default debate has not been held on fair terms. The Tea Party and their enablers have held America hostage. They have insisted that, unless Congress enacted their radical, ideological agenda, they would force an unprecedented default on America’s obligations and thus trigger an economic collapse,” Holt said.
“From the beginning of this debate, I rejected the notion that America’s creditworthiness should be used as a bargaining chip. Yet I was willing to support a balanced, fair deal if that was what was required to prevent a default. Unfortunately, today’s deal is not balanced. It is not fair. Most of all, it is not right,” he continued.
The spending cuts will threaten the economy and harm many, Holt said.
“The House has voted for vast cuts in government services that ordinary Americans depend on: student loans, unemployment insurance, food safety inspections, highway safety programs, and more. These cuts will force layoffs among teachers, public safety officers, construction workers, and more.”
Holt argued those laid off will cut back on their spending, harming local businesses, causing more layoffs and creating “a vicious circle that threatens to destabilize our fragile economy.”
In addition,, he said that the extra $1.5 trillion will be decided “behind closed doors by an unelected super-committee.”
“As poor as this deal is on its merits, I am even more troubled by the precedent it sets. The Tea Party and their enablers have, by taking the American economy hostage, transformed a routine budgetary authorization into the most dramatic reshaping of government in decades.,” he said. “Today’s deal establishes that government-by-hostage-negotiation is a legitimate, effective way to achieve one’s political ends. I am frightened by what this means for the future of our democracy.”
Garrett, in a statement he issued, said he voted against the bill for almost the exact opposite reason: it doesn’t go far enough to address our nation’s problems.
“While a step in the right direction, this is hardly the resolution I was hoping to come out of this process,” he said. “Aside from an insufficient amount of spending cuts and the threat of tax hikes on the American people, what is most unfortunate about this bill is the fact that it doesn’t address the exploding costs of our entitlement programs, which are by far the biggest threat to our credit rating.”
Garrett said he wanted to see a balanced budget amendment as part of the procedure, saying it was “the only solution that will resolve our long-term deficit and debt problem.”
“The American people expected more of us — it’s regrettable we put off the tough decisions once again.”