The debt limit crisis may be over for now, with the agreement passed by Congress and signed into law Tuesday by President Barack Obama, but the debate may continue for a while.
The bipartisan vote in the Senate on Tuesday of 74-26 mirrored the 269-161 margin in the House the night before. The emergency measure boosts the nation’s $14.3 trillion cap on borrowing, avoiding default just hours before the midnight deadline.
But Republicans remain divided on the issue, including those in Georgia’s delegation.
This time, even Georgia’s two senators differed, with Johnny Isakson voting in favor but Saxby Chambliss voting against.
Chambliss, a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Six” that tried and failed to push through a compromise solution in late July, said he “cannot vote for the largest debt-ceiling increase in America’s history without significant assurances that the bill’s proposed spending reductions will actually be realized and without reforms to the way our government budgets its spending of taxpayer dollars. This bill failed to meet those requirements.”
Chambliss said he didn’t think the bill went far enough to cut spending.
“The enforcement provisions that are supposed to lead to decreased spending are simply not strong enough,” Chambliss said in a statement. “The bill includes self-imposed spending caps, but does not provide a robust-enough procedure to ensure that those caps are not violated. Congress has shown time and again that it is incapable of staying within spending limits.”
The Gang of Six plan included steeper spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs like Medicaid but also called for revenue increases, which the final bill did not include.
Isakson voted in favor of the bill, saying that while he’d like to see deeper spending cuts the measure also “sets a precedent that there will never be a debt ceiling increase without cuts.”
“For the first time in the 37 years I have served in office, the federal government is actually cutting spending significantly with this legislation,” Isakson said in a statement on his website. “This legislation requires spending cuts equal to or greater than the increase in the debt ceiling, and it includes enforcement provisions that keep Congress from promising one thing and doing something else. Also, a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget is the straitjacket Congress needs.”
Georgia lawmakers have faced pressure in recent days from tea party groups urging them to reject debt ceiling legislation that didn’t include a binding balanced budget amendment. Six of the eight Republican House members in the state’s congressional delegation voted against the bill that passed the House on Monday, including 9th District Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger.
“America’s call for sweeping change last November set the stage for this great debate over our debt burden,” Graves said in a statement. “Washington has pushed its recklessness to the limit and violated the trust of the American people for far too long. A debt of $14 trillion isn’t an indictment; it’s a conviction.
“Ultimately, the voices of the Georgians I represent weren’t reflected in the final result, and I could not support the bill. ... I realize this debate has been long and very difficult, but if we intend to change a government as broken as ours, prepare for the road ahead to be even more challenging.”
Georgia Tea Party Patriots coordinator Debbie Dooley praised those who voted against the bill, especially Chambliss, who is up for re-election in 2014 and has sometimes struggled with tea party support.
“A lot of people in the tea party movement aren’t real happy with him,” Dooley said.
Associated Press reporters Errin Haines and Shannon McCaffrey contributed to this story.