House OK's debt-hike messaging bill

Greg Nash

The House on Wednesday passed a resolution that disapproves of President Obama's decision to suspend the debt ceiling until early February.

The House passed the disapproval resolution, H.J.Res. 99, in a 222-191 vote. Three Democrats voted for it, while four Republicans voted against it and two GOP members voted "present."

Democrats voting in favor were Reps. John Barrow (Ga.), Jim Matheson (Utah), and Mike McIntyre (N.C.). Republicans voting against were Reps. Charlie Dent (Pa.), Joe Heck (Nev.), Darrell Issa (Calif.) and Peter King (N.Y.).

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) voted "present."

ADVERTISEMENT
The resolution was the result of the debt-ceiling bill Congress approved earlier in the month. That bill gave Obama the right to suspend the debt ceiling on his own, a move that could only be checked by House and Senate passage of a disapproval resolution.

That's the same system Congress relied on in 2012, when Obama raised the debt ceiling on his own. Days later, the House passed a disapproval resolution, and the Senate rejected it.

The Senate's rejection of an identical GOP resolution on Tuesday made today's House vote meaningless in terms of changing policy. In Tuesday debate, Republicans acknowledged that the value of the resolution was in ensuring some debate on the need to cut government spending and reduce the budget deficit and the debt.

"This is a messaging bill," said Rep. Todd Young (R-Ind.), adding that this should not be seen as a negative. "The message that I am trying to drive home is that these debt problems have lingered on too long."

Young added that just because many Republicans voted to avoid a government default earlier this month, "it would be a gross mischaracterization to say that we approve of a debt-limit suspension absent adoption of bold policy reforms that will set our nation on a sustainable fiscal trajectory."

Democrats said Republicans were actually sending another message — that they are fine with calling up the resolution and raising the prospect of a congressional decision not to increase the debt ceiling.

"What it says is that you would do it again in connection with the debt ceiling," said House Ways & Means Committee ranking member Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). "So that is your message. And you would do that; you would take us to the brink of default."

Another Democrat, Rep. Mike Honda (Calif.), said he was fine with the process that allows the president to increase the national debt, and only allows Congress a chance to disapprove of it. Senate Democrats are proposing a bill that would make this the permanent way the debt limit is increased, and Honda said he supports it.

"I support this process, and I hope my colleagues will support my efforts to make it the permanent solution to the debt crisis," he said. "I urge a 'no' vote on the resolution, but I support this process that allows it."

Other Republicans agreed that a conversation is needed on how to reduce the deficit and debt. Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.) added that Republicans are not seeking a default, but rather a discussion.

"I want to be clear: this is not a resolution for default," he said. "This is an opportunity to talk about how we have got to, when raising the debt ceiling, deal with the underlying drivers of the debt."