Ky.'s Davis and Yarmuth oppose debt ceiling bill as House passes it 269-161

08/01/2011 07:04 PM

An odd couple of Republican Geoff Davis of Northern Kentucky and Democrat John Yarmuth of Louisville voted “No” Monday night on the bill that raises the debt ceiling and imposes spending cuts over the next 10 years.

Still, the measure passed on a bipartisan vote, 269-161 just after 7 p.m. with Kentucky’s other four U.S. House members joining a bipartisan coalition in favor of the hard-fought legislation. Also supporting the measure was Arizona Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who returned for her first vote since being shot in January.

In all, 95 Democrats, including Kentucky U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler of Central Kentucky voted in favor of the measure, which initially raise the debt ceiling $900 billion while cutting spending by $917 billion over the next decade.

The bill also contains a provision for another rise in the debt ceiling contingent on further spending cuts over the next 10 years.

“Instead of including extreme plans to turn Medicare into a voucher program, I am pleased the bill includes protections for veterans, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries as well as a framework for a detailed discussion on further deficit reduction and fiscal priorities,” Chandler said in a statement after the vote.

Meanwhile, 66 Republicans voted against it, including Davis of Hebron.

Davis issued a statement saying he was glad the measure takes steps “toward beginning to address our fiscal problems.” But he said he opposed it because it didn’t include the approval of a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget and because it opens the Pentagon to deeper budget cuts if Congress fails to agree to further spending restraints in the future.

Those cuts, as well as cuts to Medicare, are triggered if a bipartisan committee isn’t able to slash $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years.

That “mechanism could be devastating to defense during a time of war and to Medicare when health care providers are already facing cuts thanks to President Obama’s health care law,” Davis said.

Yarumth, meanwhile, voted on the other side from the majority — including his friend, Giffords — because he said he was frustrated that the plan didn’t close tax loopholes benefiting the nation’s wealthiest people and corporations.

“Throughout this politically-induced crisis, my constituents have been loud and clear: any plan to reduce our debt must protect Medicare and require millionaires, billionaires, and big oil companies to share in the sacrifice,” Yarmuth said. “This plan asks nothing of the wealthy few and will inevitably lead to cuts in Medicare, education, and the investments we need to create jobs and get our economy back on track.”

Republican U.S. Reps. Hal Rogers of the 5th District, Ed Whitfield of the 1st District and Brett Guthrie of the 2nd District also voted for the measure. All three said they were pleased it didn’t include any tax increases.

Before the vote, Rogers telegraphed his support, saying it wasn’t perfect but will “provide a framework for future reductions that will bring common sense into federal budgeting, provide stability and certainty in our marketplace and allow Main Street businesses to create jobs and build a stronger economy.”

Rogers, the House Appropriations Committee chairman, also pledged to continue to “trim billions” of dollars from the federal budget.

Guthrie said the bill is a “solution for the American people that puts our nation back on the path toward fiscal responsibility.”

Whitfield touted his vote in favor of the measure as a vote to “cut spending, block tax increases (and) prevent government default” in the headline of his statement after the vote.

“The bill begins this reform by cutting and capping spending while also tasking Congress with identifying further cuts in government spending. I am pleased especially to see that this legislation has been drafted to exclude any tax increases,” Whitfield said.

With less than three minutes to go in Monday night’s vote, lawmakers broke into applause — not because of passage but because of the surprise appearance of Giffords.

Her return to Washington came less than seven months since she was shot in the head.

“Her presence today to make sure we honor the obligations of our great country is important and symbolic. Her presence here in the chamber, as well as her service — her entire service — brings honor to this chamber,” said Pelosi, who earlier had announced that she would reluctantly support the debt ceiling measure.

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