Md. lawmakers split vote on GOP plan
Maryland lawmakers in the House of Representatives split their vote along party lines Tuesday on a Republican proposal to lift the nation’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling in exchange for deep budget cuts and a constitutional amendment that would require Congress to balance the budget.
The measure, which has no chance of passing in the Democratic-led Senate, cleared the House on a 234-190 vote. Five Democrats joined all but nine Republicans to support the measure. Maryland’s two Republicans – Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett of Western Maryland and Rep. Andy Harris of Baltimore County – both supported the bill while the state’s six Democrats did not.
“This bill will force the government to do what hard working Maryland families and businesses do every single day: balance their budget,” Harris, an early supporter of the "cut, cap and balance" proposal, said in a statement following the vote.
The proposal would require $111 billion in budget cuts next year and would cap federal spending at under 20 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the current 24 percent. It would also require a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate to approve tax increases.
House Democrats balked at the GOP proposal, arguing that it threatens safety net programs such as Medicare.
“This is not your garden variety balanced budget amendment,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “You can have a debate on a balanced budget amendment. What this is is an attempt to manipulate the Constitution of the United States to make it easier to end the Medicare guarantee than to close corporate tax loopholes.”
Several proposals for breaking the impasse over the debt ceiling have emerged in recent days. Republican House leaders held an unannounced meeting with President Barack Obama on Sunday, an indication that they are still in the hunt for an agreement.
Failing that, Senate leaders are working on a fall-back plan that would allow Obama to raise the debt ceiling through next year without the express approval of Congress. Although that measure has been criticized by some House conservatives, it has gained momentum in recent days as the Aug. 2 deadline to address the debt issue draws near.
Finally, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled a broad, $3.7 trillion deficit reduction plan on Tuesday that would make significant cuts while also raising about $1 trillion in new revenue. It is unclear, though, whether there is enough time to advance that complex legislation through Congress by Aug. 2.