By Jack Minor -
Going down to the wire, House Republicans passed a second bill to raise the debt limit, while Democrats again refused to pass it in the Senate.
White Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama will not present a plan of his own to the American people because he doesn’t want it to become, “politically charged” before a compromise can be reached.
The President has put pressure on Congress for the past several weeks to pass a bill to raise the debt limit. At a press conference on July 15, Obama presented an ultimatum to Congress, telling them to present him with a plan to raise the debt ceiling.
The Republican leadership subsequently passed two different bills to raise the debt ceiling. The first bill, Cut, Cap and Balance, was not given a vote in the Senate. The House then came back with another bill that grants the President the debt ceiling increase he has been seeking.
The bill, which passed the House on a 218-210 vote without a single Democrat vote, would generate $917 billion in savings. The debt ceiling would be raised in a two-step process. The first step would be an immediate $900 billion increase. A second vote will be taken to raise the debt limit by a combined total of $2.5 trillion which will carry it through the 2012 elections. The bill also contains trigger mechanisms that would require automatic across the board budget cuts if Congress fails to enact the mandated spending reductions.
Prior to the second vote being allowed to proceed, Congress must pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and send it to the states for ratification. The amendment would then have to be approved by 2/3 of the state legislatures prior to becoming part of the Constitution.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he is open to allowing a vote on the balanced budget amendment, but earlier called the balanced budget amendment “radical.” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D- New York, called the requirement for a balanced budget amendment being sent to the states a, “poison pill.” The Senate voted to block the bill on a 59 to 41 vote.
Following passage of the House bill, CD-4 Rep. Cory Gardner said, “The American people have been demanding a plan, and the House has now passed two. The President talks of grand bargains and compromise but has failed to lead or even introduce a detailed plan of his own to reduce the debt and deficit.”
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said a bill raising the debt limit must be signed by Aug. 2 to avoid the government defaulting on its obligations. The Heritage Foundation, America’s largest think tank, has said the government could continue to meet all of its obligations even if the debt limit were not raised. According to Rush Limbaugh in today’s radio broadcast, Obama has already raised the debt limit twice during his presidency with no mainstream press coverage.
Some Democrats, expressing frustration with the Republican proposals, have been urging the President to simply bypass Congress and raise the debt ceiling on his own. The basis for doing so is a provision in the 14th amendment that says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”
Liberal columnist, Bill Press, wrote, “Obama should invoke the Constitution, raise the debt ceiling, and dare anyone who disagrees to sue.” Former President Bill Clinton agreed, saying he would just raise the debt ceiling and “force the courts to stop me.” However, even Obama’s advisors believe this may be political suicide and urge extreme caution as his approval ratings dip. The vast majority of Americans (70%) want the debt dealt with now, not later.
Critics have said the provision simply says the government must prioritize its payments to the bondholders who hold the interest on the debt first, before paying other bills. In fact, this was a provision in the Constitution implemented immediately after the Civil War and intended to address indebtedness redressed at the time.
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