Local U.S. Reps back debt deal

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Sen. Toomey says ‘no’; Casey backs compromise

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes
All three local U.S. House of Representatives members voted Monday night to support a compromise measure raising the federal debt ceiling and cutting spending, while it is expected that Pennsylvania’s two U.S. Senators will split their votes.

Rep. Joe Pitts (R-16), who represents Birmingham, Pennsbury, East Marlborough, Newlin and West Marlborough, Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-6) who represents Pocopson and Rep. Pat Meehan (R-7) who represents Chadds Ford all voted to support the measure Monday night. U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) announced he would vote against the measure Tuesday, while U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) said he would back it.

Tuesday’s U.S. Senate vote — where passage was deemed highly likely — was expected to end weeks of Congressional wrangling over the federal debt limit. President Obama is expected to sign the deal Tuesday afternoon.

“Prolonged uncertainty and higher taxes are the last things that people looking for work and those concerned about holding onto their jobs need right now,” said Gerlach in a statement. “This legislation ends weeks of uncertainty about whether the United States would default for the first time in our history. No one wanted to risk sending interest rates soaring and making it even harder to create jobs and help businesses grow. Equally important is the fact that Congress will not raise taxes on Pennsylvania families and employers.

“And unlike past votes to raise the debt ceiling, Congress is not handing the President a blank check because spending will be cut by a greater amount than the borrowing limit increases. This legislation creates an opportunity for real reforms, including clearing the way for a vote on amending the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. Finally, it is important to remember that the work of House Republicans to eliminate wasteful Washington spending did not begin with this debt limit debate. Clearly, our job of making Washington live within its means is far from finished with this vote.”

Pitts made it clear he didn’t love the compromise, but said he felt it took steps in the right direction.

“This legislation is far from perfect, but we have to remember that it was negotiated by two sides that have fundamental disagreements about the role of the federal government,” he said in a statement. “On the positive side, this agreement has no job-destroying tax increases and has long-term spending cuts larger than the debt limit increase. Importantly, this legislation paves the way for a vote on a balanced budget amendment.

“However, this bill does not solve our budget problems. Congress still has a lot of work to do to bring our federal budget back into balance. We cannot pat ourselves on the back. We have to do better.”

Meehan said he glad Congress and President Barack Obama were able to reach deal, preventing a default on federal debts.

“I am pleased that today we can vote for legislation that will end a period of extreme uncertainty for seniors, taxpayers and small businesses,” Meehan said in a statement. “The debt limit debate has created terrible uncertainty about Social Security payments and military pay. It threatened America’s credit, jeopardizing the ability of families to purchase a home and small businesses to create jobs.

“Throughout the debt limit negotiations, I have consistently pushed for a responsible solution. I believe that the Obama-Boehner-Reid agreement – although not perfect – is a serious and substantive effort to rein in our out-of-control spending and establish long-term deficit savings. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office just confirmed that this agreement will cut our deficit by at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years.

“Similar to the bill passed by the House last week, this new agreement will cut spending more than it increases the debt limit while implementing caps on future spending. Just like Senator Reid’s proposal, it includes no new taxes on Pennsylvania families or job creators. A 12-member Joint Committee will be charged with securing a minimum of $1.2 trillion in additional spending reductions. I am pleased that this agreement also contains a measure to require the House and Senate to vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment that will, should it pass both Houses, then give each state legislature a voice in this debate.

“Over the last week, I have heard from thousands of my constituents across the 7th district, and the resounding message was that they wanted a responsible resolution that protects our economy, preserves promised benefits and tackles our exploding debt. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to put the needs of families and seniors, as well as the economic and fiscal health of this country, above petty partisanship and support this responsible, bipartisan agreement.”
Toomey, though, said he could not support it.

“Our government is heading for a fiscal crisis,” Sen. Toomey said in a statement. “We have doubled spending since 2000. Our deficits are now more than $1.4 trillion per year, and our debt has reached a stunning $14.3 trillion.

“Unfortunately, the debt ceiling deal announced last night does nothing to deal with the path of our government’s unsustainable deficit spending. For fiscal year 2012, this legislation will only cut two-tenths of 1 percent of total spending. Not only will our debt grow each year under this plan, it will continue to grow even as a percentage of our economy. Finally, I am concerned that the long-term cuts over the next decade will not materialize. All Congress has to do to override this bill’s spending restraints in the future is pass another law that overrides them. If Congress is truly serious about cutting spending, it would mandate serious spending cuts in next year’s budget – the only year in which cuts are actually guaranteed.

“While I appreciate the hard work and effort that has gone into this deal, it simply does not contain meaningful spending cuts, nor does it put us on a sustainable fiscal path. Therefore, I will be voting against the legislation tomorrow.”

Casey said it was necessary for both Republicans and Democrats to find compromise, for the good of the nation.

“The American people watching this over so many days now understand the basic challenge we face,” Sen. Casey said in a statement. “It’s a challenge of reducing the deficit and debt and cutting spending, but also of making sure that we have a bipartisan agreement to pay our bills and meet our obligations. And I think if I had to boil it down to four words, it is this in terms of what people in Pennsylvania have told me that we must do: compromise for our country.

“People are hurting. They’re still struggling, still worried and anxious about their children’s future,” he continued. “The least that we must do for them is to come together, work together, surrender some political points of view and surrender some personal disagreements we have to come together and reach a compromise. I believe that what they are telling us over and over again is that we need a compromise for our country.”

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