3 area senators do not support debt deal

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.)
Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) ("I think we need to insist right now - not next year, not in the near future, but now - for immediate spending cuts.")
Posted: August 02, 2011

Like many last-minute Washington compromises, the bipartisan deal to raise the federal government's borrowing authority, awaiting final approval Tuesday in the Senate, has been taking rhetorical fire from the left and the right.

Three of the four senators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey said Monday that they could not support the accord.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who has emerged as a leader of the GOP deficit hard-liners in the Senate, said he would vote no because he was not convinced the promised spending cuts would actually be realized.

"While I appreciate the hard work and effort that has gone into this deal, it simply does not contain meaningful spending cuts, nor does it put us on a sustainable fiscal path," Toomey said in a statement.

As much as $1.5 trillion of savings is supposed to come from a joint, bipartisan House-Senate committee that will recommend increases in taxes and cuts in entitlements and other spending.

"For fiscal year 2012, this legislation will only cut two-tenths of 1 percent of total spending," Toomey said. "All Congress has to do to override this bill's spending restraints in the future is pass another law that overrides them."

While Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) said he would support the deal, Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg (both D., N.J.) blasted it because it does not include any higher taxes on the wealthy or corporations and thus, in their view, the middle class and poor will bear most of the burden.

"This is simply not fair," Menendez said Monday on the Senate floor. ". . . This is not shared sacrifice. This is capitulation to the radical fringe of a Republican Party that will not bend until they break this economy or get their own way."

He heaped scorn on the idea that the House-Senate committee could ever agree to raising revenue with loophole cuts or increases in the tax rate.

"I cannot in good conscience support a plan where soldiers, seniors, students, and working families must endure trillions in cuts while oil companies, billionaires, and corporate jet owners are not asked to pay one cent," Menendez said.

Lautenberg characterized the deal as Republicans "robbing Peter and Paul, not just Peter to pay for Paul." He said the special committee would probably never be able to agree on a course of action, so automatic "triggers" in the deal would cause "deep wounds" to people who depend on domestic programs.

Casey held his nose but plans to vote for the deal.

“No compromise is perfect, and the process that has brought the country to the brink of default is unconscionable,” Casey said. “This country is running out of options to avoid further economic harm.”

Casey added that the deal will provide some “certainty” in the economy.

Rep. Rob Andrews (D., N.J.) said the trigger mechanisms give him confidence that the special committee can come up with a balanced approach to further cuts.

"Something happens if nothing happens on the committee, and that something is not palatable to either party," he said in an interview. "The consequences are so undesirable, I think we'll see a deal."

The House passed the deal Monday more handily than expected, given the criticism from most quarters.

Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) said he was pleased that the deal exposes defense spending to future cuts, while protecting Pell Grants for low-income college students and other education spending.

"The alternative to this deal was an unthinkable assault on every pocketbook and every American's checking account," Fattah said.

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) said that the deal made "serious and substantive" progress on reducing debt and that its passage would end uncertainty that threatened harm to the economy. Rep. Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) backed the deal as "not all that I would want" but "a step in the right direction."

Rep. Robert Brady (D., Pa.) voted yes but would have preferred a "clean raise of the debt ceiling," said his chief of staff, Stanley White, with spending cuts dealt with elsewhere.


Contact politics writer Thomas Fitzgerald at 215-854-2718 or tfitzgerald@phillynews.com. Read his blog, "The Big Tent," at www.philly.com/BigTent. Inquirer staff writers Joshua Adam Hicks and Robert Moran contributed to this article.

 

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