This was a vote on a motion to bring up legislation (known as a “motion to proceed”) that would have blocked a $500 billion increase in the U.S. debt limit.
In early August Congress passed—and President Obama signed into law—legislation that raised the U.S. debt limit the maximum amount the United States can be in debt) by a total of $2.4 trillion (to $16.7 trillion) through 2012. However, that legislation allowed the debt limit to be raised in increments. The measure allowed for an immediate $400 billion increase in the debt limit upon the enactment of the bill. It the allowed for a second, $500 billion increase in the debt limit a month later. However, the legislation also allowed Congress to vote on a “resolution of disapproval” that would block the second debt limit increase of $500 billion. This vote was on a motion to bring up the resolution of disapproval in the Senate.
There was no debate on this resolution. In previous debate, however, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) had opposed raising the debt limit, arguing: “This legislation raises the debt limit by about $2.5 trillion [in total]. This is a record-breaking sum. Not too many years ago, when I was in high school, this was roughly equivalent to our entire national debt. Now, through one piece of legislation, we are increasing, expanding our already huge national debt by roughly that same sum, and it does not contain any permanent, binding structural spending reform mechanisms of the sort that would be necessary to make sure we get out of this problem, to make sure we end the problem we have created through Congress's reckless pattern of perpetual deficit spending.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) had argued: “If this bill should fail, we will default on our Nation's debt. That will be the first time that has ever happened. If we should default at midnight tonight on our nation's debt, terrible consequences will ensue. We will find America's credit rating in the world diminished, the interest rates we pay as a nation increased, and the cost of money for businesses and families across the United States will increase--at exactly the wrong time, in the midst of recession.”
The Senate rejected the motion to bring up the resolution of disapproval by a vote of 45-52. 44 Republicans and 1 Democrat voted “yea.” 50 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the Senate effectively killed a resolution that would have blocked a $500 billion increase in the U.S. debt limit. Thus, the debt limit was increased, thereby preventing the U.S. from defaulting on its national debt.