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House Republicans plan debt limit vote aimed at forcing cuts

May 24, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro
(Evan Vucci, AP )

House Republicans announced Tuesday that they would hold a vote, possibly as soon as next week, to raise the nation's debt limit without any spending reductions – a maneuver designed to show there is no political support in Congress for expanding the nation's $14.3 trillion borrowing capacity without substantial deficit reforms.

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, put forward legislation that would allow the debt limit to be raised by $2.4 trillion – the amount necessary to continue paying the nation's obligations through the end of 2012.

"Let me be clear: I do not support and will not vote for a debt limit increase that does not contain significant spending cuts and budgetary reforms," Camp said in announcing the bill he will oppose. But he said the vote would prove to "the financial markets and the administration that we are serious about tackling our debt and deficit problems."

More than 100 Democrats had signed a letter earlier this year pressing for a so-called clean vote on the debt limit, with no spending cuts attached. But the legislation is likely to fail. The vote would force Democrats to go on record on the issue.

"My guess is there's not going to be many members left who think that's a good idea," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader.

Republicans welcomed the vote as necessary for amplifying the GOP position as deficit-reduction talks continued this week between congressional leaders and Vice President Joe Biden.

But Democrats said the vote is nothing but brinkmanship that sends the wrong message at a time when financial markets worldwide are watching Congress' ability to tackle a difficult issue. Defaulting on the nation's obligations, it is believed, would have catastrophic repercussions in the economy.

"The bill introduced today is a dangerous political stunt," said Rep. Sander Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee. "Brinkmanship with our economy and our nation's obligations is highly irresponsible."

Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, said the vote "sends a terrible message to the international community. ... How does that help what we're trying to do?"

lmascaro@tribune.com

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