In an act decried by Democrats as political theatre, a sham and a charade, House Republicans forced a vote Tuesday evening on a bill to raise the nation’s debt limit by $2.4 trillion, which they knew from the start was destined for failure. They are hoping that it will force Democrats to agree to an equal amount in budget cuts in exchange for GOP support for raising the debt ceiling. The limit was reached on May 16, but Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner did a little finagling to extend actual default to August. Both parties overwhelmingly voted against the bill by a margin of 97–318.
Their reasons for doing so, however, varied and Democrats, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, were clearly divided on the issue.
“Basically what we have here is a sham, and it’s very insulting in a way that people like [Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn and others] are sitting down with Republicans and Vice President Biden trying to work out [budget cuts], and then the Republicans put up a bill knowing it’s going to fail,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), who voted no. “And I think it sends a horrible message to the American public that we would be playing games with this whole debt-ceiling issue.”
Representatives William Lacy Clay (D-Missouri) and Hansen Clarke (D-Michigan), on the other hand, supported the bill because they said it was “the right thing to do.” Clay cited solidarity with President Obama who’d encouraged Congress to pass the measure and a fear that not doing so would have an adverse effect on the financial markets.
Rep. Tim Scott, one of the House’s two Black Republicans, voted against the measure.
“When you have $14 trillion in debt and have seen no changes in the pattern in which we spend money, it’s very difficult to vote for us to get more credit so we can spend more money,” he said. “There’s no question that to get the House back in order, we’re going to have to do something revolutionary.”
(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)