Harris threatens ‘no’ vote on GOP debt proposal
Rep. Andy Harris, who as a first-term Republican is part of a block of lawmakers who may ultimately decide the fate of the debt ceiling debate, reiterated Tuesday that he will not support raising the limit unless a constitutional amendment to require a balanced budget is included.
And as it stands now, the proposal put forward by Republican House Speaker John Boehner does not include a balanced budget amendment.
"By an overwhelming amount, Maryland families and businesses have contacted me to demand that the federal government get its fiscal house in order, stop spending more than it takes in, and balance the budget,” Harris, a Baltimore County Republican, said in a statement. “I disagree with the president -- we need a balanced budget amendment, and I won't vote to raise the debt ceiling unless a balanced budget amendment is part of the deal."
Western Maryland Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett, the state's other GOP member of Congress, is undecided on the legislation.
Freshmen GOP lawmakers such as Harris could make or break the proposal put forward this week by Boehner, an Ohio Republican, that would cut budget deficits by roughly $1.2 trillion over 10 years and raise the debt ceiling for about six months. The current proposal, headed toward a vote as early as Wednesday, only calls for a vote on a balanced budget amendment.
Because of that, several conservative Republicans balked at the measure Tuesday. Democrats, meanwhile, have also opposed the Boehner plan because it extends the debt limit for six months rather than the 17 months sought by President Barack Obama. The White House threatened to veto the Boehner plan on Tuesday.
Bartlett, meanwhile, is still studying the plan, said spokeswoman Lisa Lyons Wright, which is significant in itself. Bartlett opposed raising the debt ceiling long before it was fashionable to do so, voting 'no' on every such vote that has come up during his 10-term tenure. He did, however, support a GOP plan earlier this month that called for deep cuts, a cap on spending and a balanced budget amendment. The measure failed to advance in the Democratic-led Senate.
His spokeswoman said that Bartlett is "studying the details closely" to ensure that there are "spending cuts and budget reforms and no tax increases" in the effort to "avert a fiscal catastrophe."
Congress is scrambling to find a way to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt ceiling while also addressing calls to lower budget deficits. U.S. Treasury Department officials have said the limit must be raised by Aug. 2 to avoid a potential default of the country's obligations.