President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling. Obama also held a news conference in the White House Rose Garden Tuesday afternoon to mark the bill's final passage in both the House and Senate, an effort that required weeks of intense and often bitterly partisan debate that no other president has had to endure. Tuesday afternoon the Senate passed emergency legislation by a vote of 74-26 to avoid a first-ever government default, rushing the legislation to the president for his signature just hours before the deadline. The House passed its bill late Monday, by a vote of 269 to 161.
“This compromise guarantees more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction. It’s an important first step in ensuring that as a nation we live within our means. Yet it also allows us to keep making key investments in things like education and research that lead to new jobs,” Obama said during his news conference.
He added that the bill includes tax reforms so that the wealthiest Americans and large corporations will pay their fair share and also closes tax loopholes so that the budget is not balanced on the backs of the people who’ve struggled most during the recession and slow economic recovery.
“Everyone’s going to have to chip in. That’s only fair. That’s the principle that I’ll be fighting for during the next phase of this process,” he said, referring to a bipartisan, bicameral congressional “super committee” that will be tasked with determining what spending cuts will be made.
The compromise that lawmakers negotiated cuts federal spending and does not include any revenue raisers, which were key to getting Republicans to sign on. It also meets Obama’s stated bottom line, which was to raise the ceiling through 2012 so that it cannot be used as leverage during a crucial election year.
Looking forward, Obama reiterated his desire that Congress immediately "take bipartisan, commonsense steps" to boost job creation and the economy, when the two chambers return to Washington from their August recess on Sept. 7.
“We need to begin by extending tax cuts for middle-class families so you have more money in your paychecks next year. If you've got more money in your paycheck, you're more likely to spend it, and that means small businesses and medium-size businesses and large businesses will all have more customers. That means they'll be in a better position to hire,” he said. “And while we're at it, we need to make sure that millions of workers who are still pounding the pavement looking for jobs to support their families are not denied needed unemployment benefits.”
Obama also noted how it was only after a "long and contentious debate" with the "timer ticking down" that Congress was finally compelled to act to avoid economic disaster.
“It shouldn't take the risk of default, the risk of economic catastrophe, to get folks in this town to work together and do their jobs, because there's already a quiet crisis going on in the lives of a lot of families and a lot of communities all across the country,” the president said. “They're looking for work, and they have been for a while; or they're making do with fewer hours or fewer customers; or they're just trying to make ends meet.”
Only 14 members of the Congressional Black Caucus supported the bill because they believe that its spending cuts will exacerbate the economic woes and high levels of unemployment and home foreclosures in their struggling districts.
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