After months of argument, temper tantrums, and harsh rhetoric, Congress made the monumental decision to pay America’s bills – generations of debt obligations. Since 1960, “clean” debt ceiling legislation has been passed 78 times: 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents. This time the debate and the decision making process almost led America into default as the Republican Tea Party members of Congress gambled with our economy.
It didn’t have to be this way. Congress voted on a clean debt ceiling increase on May 31, 2011 to prevent this crisis. That legislation had my support, but it was overwhelmingly defeated by Republicans and Democrats. After weeks of inaction by the House Republican majority to avert default, I introduced my own bill, the Don’t Default on America’s Debts and Destroy America’s Job Act (H.R. 2544). This bill raises the debt ceiling while also calling on Congress to cancel its August recess in order to produce legislation that creates jobs, grows the economy, and reduces long-term budget deficits. Then, on July 30th – only days before the August 2nd default deadline – again I again voted to increase the debt ceiling, as well as protect Social Security and Medicare, cut future deficits by $2.2 trillion, and end funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That measure, Senator Harry Reid’s “Bipartisan Budget Control Act” was unanimously voted against by the Tea Party Republicans.
While I supported each of these bills to solve the Republican-manufactured debt default crisis, I strongly opposed the final agreement. The Budget Control Act Agreement (S. 365) was the product of an absurd and disturbing political process, which will most unfortunately become the norm as long the Tea Party controls the U.S. House and President Obama is in the White House.
For the first time ever, one of America’s political parties showed themselves willing to throw the nation into default on our debt obligations for the sake of politics. By holding the U.S. economy hostage to an increase in the debt ceiling hostage, the Tea Party Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives imperiled millions of jobs, businesses, and the economic well-being all Americans.
I am not alone in this sentiment. A nonpartisan publication, the National Journal, declared that America has “entered a new era of government at gunpoint.” I also agreed with Wall Street Journal editors who criticized the House majority’s conduct during this process by saying, “Republicans are not looking like adults to whom voters can entrust the...