Md. GOP lawmakers to support debt plan
Updated with roll call and reaction.
Maryland’s two Republican lawmakers backed a plan in the House of Representatives on Friday to raise the nation’s debt ceiling as the state's Democrats voted unanimously against it.
Western Maryland Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and Baltimore County Rep. Andy Harris were among the last holdouts on the proposal put forward by Speaker John Boehner. Specifically, the two came on board after Republican leaders agreed to include a proposed constitutional amendment that would require Congress to balance the budget.
“I didn’t come to Washington to put off making the tough decisions necessary to deal with our crippling debt and deficits,” Harris said. “I came to Washington to end budget tricks, accounting gimmicks and empty promises. A balanced budget amendment will provide the permanent accountability that America needs in Washington.”
The House voted 218-210 to support the Boehner plan, which would raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year while cutting more than $900 billion in federal spending. Hours later, the Democratic-controlled Senate moved to table the measure on 59-41 vote.
House Democrats had already vowed to vote against the plan en masse, so it was conservative Republicans who held the most leverage over the past several days. On Thursday night, both Bartlett and Harris were still undecided, and Republican leaders announced at the last minute that they would delay a vote on their plan.
"Americans can’t afford to wait until after the next election to reduce the federal government’s exploding debt," Bartlett said. The proposal, he said, would "prevent default, cut government spending more than it increases our debt ceiling without tax increases and compels this Congress and this president to reduce the federal government’s exploding debt and vote on a balanced budget amendment.”
House Democrats panned the measure. Rep. Donna F. Edwards said the bill "is nothing short of reckless, potentially sending our economy on a downward spiral.”
Senate Democrats threatened to table the plan and they carried through on that threat late Friday. Maryland Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin both voted to table the bill.
Lawmakers will work through the weekend to find a compromise on raising the debt ceiling by Tuesday. The Obama administration has warned that the government will have to forgo making some payments unless the ceiling is raised by then.
“Now is the time to do what is best for America,” said Democratic Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Baltimore. “We must practice the art of politics, which is to say the art of compromise."