Ky. delegation reflects national partisan split in vote over House GOP's debt limit approach

07/19/2011 07:36 PM

Kentucky’s four Republican congressmen and two Democrats stood on opposite sides of the GOP House plan to make raising the debt limit contingent on a balanced budget requirement on Tuesday night.

The proposal — which Republicans nicknamed the “cut, cap and balance” plan — passed 234-190 after nearly six hours of repetitive debate over a bill that was doomed from the start in the Senate anyway.

The debate largely served as a chance for members of both parties to meet their quota of using phrases such as, “kick the can down the road,” “playing politics,” and “the other side just doesn’t want to compromise.” Also, today’s debate was sponsored by the word “balanced.”

Republicans praised the proposal because it would allow for the $14.3 trillion debt limit to go up once Congress started the process of amending the constitution to require a balanced federal budget every year. It also would cap spending levels and includes more than $100 billion in immediate cuts.

“The Cut, Cap, and Balance Act is a common-sense approach to resolving our debt crisis and getting our country back on the path to fiscal responsibility in both the short and long-term,” said U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis, a Republican from Kentucky’s 4th District in Northern Kentucky.

Many Democrats, including U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville, took to the floor to warn that the approach was draconian.

“What cut, cap and balance would really mean is slash, shred and punish: slash the budget, shred the safety net and punish the American citizens who can least afford it,” Yarmuth said in his floor speech.

Yarmuth’s one-minute speech was punchy enough to get included in several national stories on the day’s debate, including on NPR. You can see it here:

Kentucky’s other Democrat, U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of the 6th District in Central Kentucky, said in a statement after Tuesday night’s vote that the Republican plan “uses legislative and budget tricks to attack” Social Security and Medicare.

Still, Chandler said he supports a balanced budget amendment being offered by the group of conservative House Democrats known as the Blue Dogs.

Earlier in the day, Republican U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, who represents the 1st District in western Kentucky, told reporters he supported the “cut, cap and balance” plan because it’s the only proposal in writing out there.

While Whitfield stopped short of saying he’d vote for a fall-back proposal — such as one Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell has been working on with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid — he did say he believed Congress should do everything it can not to miss the Aug. 2 deadline.

“I, for one, do not believe we can afford to find ourselves in August not being able to pay our bills because I think the consequences of that will be dire,” Whitfield said. “… But we have to have some measures to reduce spending.”

By early afternoon, the so-called “Gang of Six” — now seven Senators — announced they had the framework for a plan to shave $3.7 trillion off the country’s debt over the next decade. That won words of support from President Obama.

Obama said he wants to see a combination of spending cuts, changes to Medicare and Social Security and the closing of tax loopholes and increase in some taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

He ended his statement to the press by saying just because he agrees in principle with the approach of seven senators doesn’t mean the framework for the plan can make it through the U.S. House.

“There’s going to have to be a broader agreement among all the leadership,” Obama told reporters.

- Ryan Alessi


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