by Jack Minor
Heeding calls from Tea Party members, Republicans in the house unanimously voted against a proposal to increase the federal debt limit to $16.7 trillion.
The 318-97 vote to raise the debt limit was a clean vote with no conditions attached. Democrat minority whip, Steny Hoyer, advised Democrats to vote against the bill. This marked a turnaround in position. Earlier in the month Hoyer said voting against a clean bill would be “holding hostage the credit of the United States.”
Hoyer said his reasoning for advising members to vote no was political, stating members should not “subject themselves to a 30-second ad attack” by voting to raise the debt ceiling when the Republicans were going to vote no.
Republicans were warned that an increase in the debt limit would come back to haunt them in the next election. William Temple, chairman of The Tea Party Founding Fathers, told Republicans the vote to raise the debt limit would determine their scorecard number for the year. “If you vote to raise the debt ceiling, you get a zero for the whole year. If you don’t vote to raise the debt ceiling, you score 100.”
Following the vote, Rep. Cory Gardner said, “Tonight’s vote proves what I have been saying all along – there is no support for increasing debt without cutting spending. Republicans were given a majority in the House for a reason, to change business as usual.”
Polls show the public overwhelmingly supported the Republican stance on the debt limit. A recent Gallup poll showed that only 19 percent of adult Americans favored raising the debt ceiling.
The government reached the debt ceiling on May 16, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner began borrowing money from government worker retirement funds.
Joseph Farah, organizer of a grass roots campaign against raising the debt limit, called the move , “Treasury’s latest scam.” Farah stated the move is not necessary and that instead the government could choose to cut spending. ” They’ll do anything not to curtail current and future spending levels. It’s a shell game designed to coerce Congress to allow unlimited borrowing.”
Critics have said failure to raise the debt limit will cause the United States to go into default on its current obligations. That allegation is disputed by the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute which say the government could still service interest on the debt with existing tax revenues provided substantial cuts are made to the budget.
Farah pointed out interest on the debt is a small portion of total government revenues. “U.S. government revenues are in excess of $2 trillion a year. That’s before any borrowing. Interest on the debt is about $200 billion. That leaves $1.8 trillion for the U.S. government to spend on its myriad programs.”