This vote was on an amendment by Max Baucus, D-Mont., that would increase the statutory debt limit – which is another way of saying the amount of money the country can be in debt – to $14.29 trillion, a $1.9 trillion increase over the status quo. The amendment was offered to a bill that would increase the debt limit to $13.29 trillion.
Baucus said his amendment is “about whether the United States will pay its bills.”
“If Congress does not enact this legislation, the Treasury will default on its debt for the first time in American history, which means lower Social Security payments for a portion of those beneficiaries, and we would fail to pay full pay benefits to a portion of the beneficiaries of all other Federal programs,” Baucus said. “The value of the dollar would decline significantly. Ultimately, the question of America’s sovereignty and the degree to which we are controlling our future would be in doubt and other countries would be dictating the results and telling us what to do.”
Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said raising the debt ceiling in this manner is irresponsible.
“To raise the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion while doing nothing to address the debt and how it is being added to is totally irresponsible. It is like a drunken sailor asking to have the bar open all night,” Gregg said. “Why are we going to this number, by the way? Why $1.9 trillion? So that the Congress does not have to face up to the debt ceiling before the next election.”
Some moderate Democrats had balked at supporting raising the debt limit, but their support was secured after President Obama announced that he would use an executive order to create a new commission to recommend steps to rein in the debt over the long term.
By a vote of 60-40, the amendment was adopted. Every Democrat present voted for the amendment. Every Republican present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the measure went forward with language that increased the debt limit to $14.29 trillion, rather than $13.29 trillion.