July 29, 2011
At this writing, the debt ceiling has not been raised and a path to compromise is still unclear. The House is scheduled to pass an amended version of S. 627 tonight, which is Speaker Boehner's Default Act. I will vote NO. That measure was pulled from the floor yesterday because Republicans didn't have enough votes. We'll see if it passes tonight. Republican leadership has been working all week to round up votes and has had to amend it several times already. Many of the Republican freshmen are absolutely refusing to compromise and continue to insist that all of their demands be met before they will support anything. And all of the effort to appease this small group of Members is basically a waste of precious time. Majority Leader Reid has already stated that Speaker Boehner's bill won't pass the Senate and even if it somehow does, President Obama has already said repeatedly that he will veto it.
You may wonder why there is such strong opposition to the plan that Speaker Boehner has crafted at the insistence of a small group of House members. After all, at least it is a vehicle that will lead to an increase in the debt ceiling. But when you take a look at how this bill accomplishes that, I think it will become clear why there is so much opposition to it.
The Default Act raises the debt ceiling in two steps. In the first step, $917 billion in cuts will be enacted in order to raise the debt ceiling by $900 billion which would last until probably sometime in January. That basically means Congress will be engaging in this exact same debate just a few months from now, during the holiday season a time when the American people should be thinking about family gatherings and gift giving, not whether their Social Security check will show up on time or their retirement accounts will be negatively impacted.
Our economy cannot afford a short term patch to raising the debt ceiling. Many economists have warned that this approach may not even be enough to prevent a credit downgrade or higher interest rates. At a minimum, a long term solution must be reached so we are not having this same debate in December. Will many of the fundamentals have changed by then? No. It is irresponsible to delay solving this problem.
The second stage of the Speaker's plan calls for the establishment of a "Joint Select Committee" to identify at least $1.6 trillion in additional cuts. Most of the cuts in the first round would come from discretionary spending so the second round cuts would necessarily focus on programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare. And the impact would be enormous. It's worth noting also that the Speaker has already taken additional revenue (taxes) off the table. He has stated that his appointees to the "Joint Select Committee" won't consider additional revenue.
One of the changes made to S. 627 is the addition of a provision related to a balanced budget amendment. The second increase to the debt limit would only go into effect if Congress sends the 50 states a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Please note: the legislation does not require a simple up or down vote on this amendment. It requires that the amendment pass or there will be no debt ceiling increase. In order to amend the Constitution, two-thirds of both the House and the Senate must approve it and the likelihood of that many Members casting YES votes is slim. This bill is basically Cut, Cap and Balance all over again which already failed in the Senate.
As always, I will keep you posted as this debate continues. Thanks to all of you who have weighed in with a phone call, a Facebook post or an e-mail. I am encouraged by your commitment, and I appreciate all of your comments.
Jamaica Plain Post Office Naming
On Sunday August 7th, the United States Post Office located at 655 Centre Street in Jamaica Plain will be formally named in memory of Lance Corporal Alexander Arredondo, USMC. The dedication ceremony will take place at 2:00 PM and the public is invited to attend.
Lcpl. Arredondo made the supreme sacrifice in August of 2004 in Najaf, Iraq while on his second tour of duty. Lcpl. Arredondo received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with combat V and the Purple Heart for his actions while serving in Iraq. Lcpl. Arredondo heroically performed the duties of a fire team leader while fighting enemy forces in Najaf. In the battle leading to his death, Lcpl. Arredondo led his fellow Marines through a two story building, working to clear and secure it. His squad gained control of the building after enduring intense enemy fighting. Lcpl. Arredondo was mortally wounded by a sniper as he checked on the security of his fellow Marines.
Lance Corporal Arredondo, a Randolph native, was raised in Jamaica Plain. He graduated from Blue Hills Regional High School before enlisting in the Marines. I was proud to sponsor the legislation to name this post office which was co-sponsored by all of my Massachusetts House and Senate colleagues.
What's up Next Week
The House remains in session while debate continues over raising the debt ceiling.