Inside and outside of Oakland

National debt compromise heads to Obama

  The U.S. Senate voted to raise the national debt ceiling Tuesday, joining the House in approving a compromise and sending it to President Barack Obama for his signature just in time to avoid a default on U.S. debts.

  The 74-26 vote in the Senate shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday followed Monday night's 269-161 vote in the House.
  The compromise raises the nation's $14.29 trillion debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and reduce the country's deficit by at least $2.1 trillion by 2021.
  Bipartisan voting indicated dissatisfaction with the contents of the compromise and lingering concern that the political fracture that led to the last-minute deal could still weaken the country's AAA credit rating.
  Both of Michigan's senators, both Democrats, approved the deal.
  “If America had defaulted for the first time in our history, senior citizens and middle class families would have faced higher interest rates, cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits, and reduced retirement accounts," U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said shortly after the vote.
  "It’s extremely frustrating that some in Congress created so much economic uncertainty for so long by refusing to compromise," Stabenow said. "I’m glad that cooler heads finally prevailed to pass a bipartisan agreement to significantly reduce the deficit and avoid another blow to our economy."
  U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, in a floor statement to the Senate prior to voting, urged passage while calling the compromise less than ideal.
  "Despite its many flaws, this legislation must pass," Levin said. "While there will be a number of negative consequences as a result of this bill’s passage, there will be more dire consequences if it fails to pass.
  "The choice here is between a faulty piece of legislation, on the one hand, and severe damage to our economy and even greater joblessness on the other."
  Passage of the deal was more likely in the Senate where Democrats hold a thin majority.
Monday's vote in the Republican-controlled House was less certain, though the margin of approval was wider than it could have been.
  In all, House Democrats were split 95-95 on the deal while Republicans voted 174-66 in favor of it.
In Oakland County, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, voted against it while U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Howell, Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, and Thaddeus McCotter, R-Livonia, voted for it.
  Peters said the legislation would make deep cuts to programs affecting middle class families without making the fundamental budget reforms needed to reduce the national debt.
  “As I have said for nearly two years, we must have a comprehensive and balanced deficit reduction package as part of any debt ceiling increase, but this deal misses that mark by a mile,” Peters said. “Sadly, this is just business as usual in Washington — it makes painful cuts for middle class families without closing tax loopholes for special interests or fixing the structural problems with our deficit.”
McCotter, whose district includes west Oakland County, is a GOP presidential hopeful in 2012. He has misgivings about the compromise.
  "Upon receiving the initial framework of the Budget Control Act of 2011, I was concerned about the potentials for tax increases and military cuts during the 'super committee' and prospective sequestration processes," McCotter said.
  "After publicly raising these issues in the narrow window afforded before the vote, I then brought to and discussed with Speaker Boehner my concerns, which he shared and addressed," he said.  "Therefore, I voted for the bill, which constitutes an imperfect but imperative first step toward restoring fiscal integrity to a federal government that spends too much, takes too much, and owes too much."
  Rogers, whose district includes much of north Oakland County, said the Budget Control Act cuts more in spending than the debt limit increases.
  "Washington is taking responsibility by paying our bills in a manner that not only ensures that Michigan families’ finances won’t be disrupted by a job-destroying national credit default, but also charts a path of fiscal sanity by cutting $2.4 trillion in spending over the next 10 years without raising taxes a dime," he said.
  "It gets us off to a good start, but more spending cuts will be necessary to balance the budget and help to save money that our children and grandkids would be forced to pay in the future," Rogers said. "Congress will need to further address the issue through annual appropriations bills and other vehicles that become available, but at least we are now headed in the right direction."
  Levin, who voted for the compromise, hadn't immediately issued a statement but his office said one would be forthcoming.
  But it was expected to mirror the remarks he made Monday during the House debate: "I definitely do not want our nation to default on its full faith and credit. But I also don’t want our nation to default on our solemn obligations as a nation, as a community, to all of our citizens."
  Among Michigan's 15-member House delegation, both parties were split in their support of the compromise.
  Democrats voting against it with Peters were Reps. Hansen Clarke of Detroit, and John Conyers of Detroit.
  Democrats voting yes with Levin were Reps. John Dingell of Dearborn and Dale Kildee of Flint.
The lone Republican voting against it was Rep. Justin Amash of Cascade.
  Republicans supporting the compromise with McCotter and Rogers were Reps. Dan Benishek of Crystal Falls, Bill Huizenga of Zeeland, Dave Camp of Midland, Candice Miller of Harrison Township, Fred Upton of Saint Joseph, and Timothy Walberg of Tipton.
  Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, charlie.crumm@oakpress.com or follow him on Twitter @crummc and on Facebook.

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