Debt limit vote splits Md. Democrats
A proposal to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit without making significant cuts in federal spending failed in the House of Representatives Tuesday and split the Democratic members of Maryland's congressional delegation.
Reps. John Sarbanes, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger and Donna Edwards supported the proposal, while Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Chris Van Hollen and Steny Hoyer opposed it. All are Democrats. The state's two Republicans, Reps. Andy Harris and Roscoe G. Bartlett, both voted against the bill.
The bill, which failed 97-318, was brought to the House floor by Republicans who acknowledged early in the debate that they would not support it. The measure was intended to put Democrats in a political bind by forcing them to vote on a "clean" debt limit measure without spending cuts -- an idea they initially favored.
Republicans have sought to pair any vote to raise the debt limit with spending cuts. By supporting the measure Tuesday, Democrats left themselves open to attack that they are not serious about federal spending. Seconds after the vote, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, used his Twitter account to blame Democrats for voting "blindly to raise the debt ceiling without real spending cuts."
Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, called the vote a "political stunt" and accused the GOP of "demagoguing the debt ceiling increase for political gain."
Edwards, who backed the measure, called the GOP move "irresponsible grandstanding."
All Republicans opposed the bill, but the Democratic caucus split, with 97 in favor, 82 opposed and seven voting present.
“Marylanders sent me to Congress to end Washington’s spending spree – to get the economy moving and build an environment for positive job growth,” Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, said in a statement. “A vote to yet again increase the debt limit without needed spending reductions would simply continue to kick the can down the road.”
The U.S. reached its debt ceiling May 16, but the Treasury Department has said it can continue to pay the nation's bills until Aug. 2. As the deadline approaches, the issue promises to consume Congress. Several bipartisan groups of lawmakers, meanwhile, are negotiating behind the scenes in search of a compromise.
The House vote followed similar political maneuvering by Senate Democrats last week. In that case, Democratic leaders forced a vote on a 2012 budget approved by House Republicans, even though many GOP senators opposed the spending plan. That budget, drafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, includes a major overhaul of the Medicare program.