Photo Caption: U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville.
The U.S. Congress and President of the United States continued a showdown over the debt ceiling Saturday night, but did make some progress toward a solution to avoid a potential federal default that could pose some significant economic and political repercussions.
The two congressmen who represent Athens County in the U.S. House continued to hold the line against a Democrat-proffered compromise, but did vote for a plan set out by Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner of Ohio.
Congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama renewed talks as the clock ticks toward the Aug. 2 deadline U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has set as the day when the U.S. would not be able to meet all of its obligations.
The Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate have each been working on their own plans over the weekend. Boehner encountered some headwinds within his own party over his proposal. U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, who leads the 176-member Republican Study Committee, had rallied with Tea Party supporters to scuttle Boehner's plan.
Boehner, however, rallied back to get enough support to pass that bill in the House. But that Republican plan did not go on for consideration by the Democratic-controlled Senate.
This area's two Congressmen, U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, and Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, are both members of the Republican Study Committee, but they did not join Jordan in his efforts and both voted in favor of the Boehner plan. Johnson represents Ohio's 6th Congressional district, while Gibbs serves Ohio's 18th Congressional district.
Gibbs said he voted for the Boehner plan as a responsible approach to resolving the debt crisis and getting the country back on the path to fiscal responsibility.
"This plan makes real spending cuts, establishes enforceable spending caps on discretionary spending and requires a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution in Congress," Gibbs said in a press release. "I have said all along: We must stop spending money we don't have, we cannot raise taxes, and I would not support a debt limit increase without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt."
He said Boehner's plan would have cut discretionary spending by $917 billion while raising the debt ceiling by up to $900 billion without raisin "Most importantly, this plan is the most viable path to keeping America from default and preserving the credit rating of this country," he said. "While this bill isn't perfect, it denies President Obama the $2.4 trillion blank check he is seeking, and changes the fiscal trajectory of our nation without relying on the gimmicks and phantom cuts laid out in the Democrats' framework."
The Senate Democrat plan, by contrast, would raise the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion, make for $2.2 trillion in spending cuts and establish a new Congressional committee to explore deeper spending cuts.
A political aspect of the two plans is that the Republican plan would amount to a short-term solution and the debt-ceiling debate would have to be revisited during the 2012 campaign season, while the Democratic plan is long-term and would put off a future debate until after the 2012 election is over.
Reid's office received a letter signed by 43 of the 47 Senate Republicans saying they would not back his proposal. The numbers signaled that without changes in the plan, Mr. Reid would not be able to overcome a Republican filibuster, which requires 60 votes.
House Republicans, without even having the legislation sent to them yet, held a symbolic vote on Saturday, rejecting Reid's plan by a 246 to 173 vote.
On Saturday, the Boehner and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced they had renewed talks with the White House.
"I'm confident and optimistic that we're going to get an agreement in the very near future and resolve this crisis in the best interests of the American people," said McConnell in The New York Times.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Johnson praised Boehner's plan, while acknowledging that to him it was still not a perfect solution.
"For too long now, previous Congresses have treated increases to the nation's debt ceiling as temporary problems to be dealt with later on," he said in a press release. "It's now 'later on' and we have to deal with this very serious challenge to our nation's fiscal health."
He said the Boehner plan is not a perfect solution, but praised it for including the balanced budget amendment proposal.
"Enough is enough. Our plan enforces fiscal discipline without budget tricks, accounting gimmicks or smoke and mirrors," he said. "House Republicans have now put forth not one, but two debt reduction solutions in addition to a responsible federal budget that cuts spending while preserving and strengthening Medicare and Social Security."
He said it's time to put people before politics and progress before partisanship.
"It's time for the White House and Senate Democrats to join House Republicans in producing a solution to our national debt crisis - one that makes real spending cuts, one that establishes real spending controls, one that forces the federal government to live within its means, and one that doesn't raise taxes on working families and job creators," he said.