Ky. delegation all over the map on debt ceiling approach

07/29/2011 10:39 PM

Encapsulating the political divisions nationally, four distinct camps have emerged amid Kentucky’s congressional delegation over the approach to raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

That became even clearer Friday evening after the U.S. House narrowly approved its latest attempt to raise the debt ceiling by a 218-210 vote. . The proposal would cut nearly $1 trillion in federal spending in exchange for raising the debt limit by a similar amount — enough for about six months. It also provides for another increase in the debt limit if Congress later approves a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget.

U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, immediately issued a statement slamming Senate Democrats for their swift move to tank the bill, although McConnell’s statement didn’t explicitly endorse the House bill.

“The House has now passed its second bill in two weeks that would prevent a default and significantly cut Washington spending,” McConnell said in a statement. “The Senate is a different story. Rather than working towards a solution to this crisis the way the Republican majority in the House has, the Democrat majority here in the Senate has been wasting precious time rounding up ‘no’ votes.”

The Loyal Soldiers

The House bill won support from Kentucky’s four Republican House members — although several made a point of saying it was far from ideal.

“As I have said before, defaulting is not an option. While this bill does not solve all of our deficit or debt problems, it does help to address the irresponsibility of previous congresses and put an end to the cycle of borrowing and spending that has plagued Washington,” said U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican who represents the 2nd District.

Also among the 218 Republicans who voted for the bill were Congressmen Hal Rogers of the 5th District in Eastern Kentucky, Ed Whitfield of the 1st District in Western Kentucky and Geoff Davis, a Republican from the 4th District in Northern Kentucky.

“This bill is by no means a complete or perfect solution, but it does take important steps in the right direction and will protect our economy from default without raising taxes,” Davis said.

Davis’s press statement even included a statement of endorsement from former Kentucky U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, in which Bunning insisted that Davis “is a true conservative.”

“The plan makes progress toward easing the burden of our crushing debt,” Bunning’s statement said. “This is a difficult decision, but there are no acceptable alternatives.”

The hold-out

But Bunning’s successor, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, re-stated his opposition to House plan because it didn’t include a balanced budget amendment.

“Increased debt now, with promises to fix the problem later, is what has gotten us into our current debt crisis,” Paul said on Friday night. “I remain committed to working with my colleagues to find a solution that raises the debt limit while fixing the debt problem.”

(Among the 22 Republican House members who opposed the bill Friday evening were Paul’s father and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas and another presidential candidate, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.)

The vocal objector

Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville continued publicly speaking out against the House Republicans’ approach.

He took to the House floor for the second time in a week to criticize the levels of spending cuts and made an appearance on MSNBC.

The latest “plan would increase borrowing across the entire spectrum of American society including local and state governments, business, and our citizens, producing essentially a back door tax hike on the American people,” Yarmuth said in his floor speech. It does all this damage to seniors and middle class families while sparing the wealthy from even the slightest inconvenience.”

The quiet minority

Many conservative Democrats, however, have been more subdued during this debate. That includes Kentucky’s 6th District Congressman Ben Chandler of Versailles.

The Blue Dog Democrats, of which Chandler is a member, have said they support a balanced budget amendment. Five conservative Democrats voted with Republicans in last week’s vote for the GOP’s “cut, cap and balance” approach — although Chandler was not one of them.

Friday night, the Democrats — conservatives included — voted as a bloc against the Republicans’ measure.

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