Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

August 3, 2011

Georgia GOP senators split on debt ceiling vote

ATLANTA — Georgia’s U.S. senators — Republicans who are typically in lockstep — cast divergent votes on a compromise bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, allowing the United States on Tuesday to avoid a first-ever default.

The emergency measure boosts the nation’s $14.3 trillion cap on borrowing, avoiding default just hours before the midnight deadline.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson voted in favor of the bill, saying that while he’d like to see deeper spending cuts the measure also “sets a precedent that there will never be a debt ceiling increase without cuts.”

But U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss — one of the so-called Gang of Six that pushed an alternative spending reduction plan — was one of 26 votes against the deal on Tuesday. Georgia’s senior senator said there were not “significant assurances” that spending reductions would happen.

“The enforcement provisions that are supposed to lead to decreased spending are simply not strong enough,” Chambliss said in a statement. “The bill includes self-imposed spending caps, but does not provide a robust-enough procedure to ensure that those caps are not violated. Congress has shown time and again that it is incapable of staying within spending limits.”

The Gang of Six plan included steeper spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs like Medicaid but also called for revenue increases.

Georgia lawmakers have faced pressure in recent days from tea party groups urging them to reject debt ceiling legislation that didn’t include a binding balanced budget amendment. Six of the eight Republican House members in the state’s congressional delegation voted against the bill that passed the House on Monday.

Georgia Tea Party Patriots coordinator Debbie Dooley praised those who voted against the bill, especially Chambliss, who is up for re-election in 2014 and has sometimes struggled with tea party support.

“A lot of people in the tea party movement aren’t real happy with him,” Dooley said.

Joining the six Georgia House Republicans who voted against the debt bill on Monday was Democratic U.S. Rep. John Lewis, one of the most liberal members of the state’s congressional delegation.

Lewis said ultimately the deal was not a balanced compromise.

“We gave and gave and received nothing in return,” Lewis said in a statement, referring to his Democratic colleagues. “This bill will bring a bitter harvest to millions of Americans who are already falling into debt, foreclosure and poverty.

That echoed the concerns of House Republicans who argued the bill didn’t go far enough in their direction.

“The final deal before us today fails the match the magnitude of the crisis,” U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, said.  

U.S. Reps. Tom Price, of Roswell, and Rob Woodall, of Lawrenceville, were the only Georgia Republicans to back the measure in the House.

After voting in favor of the plan, Woodall emailed his constituents to say it continues “our march toward lower federal spending in order to avoid a governmental default.”

Price said the plan was far from perfect, but he said it “forces Washington to cut spending now and control spending in the years ahead, and it forces Congress to take action on tackling our long-term debt crisis.”

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