Both U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, voted in favor of the debt ceiling compromise that was signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday, the deadline for the agreement.
Gibbs represents Ohio's 18th Congressional District that includes the northern portion of Athens County, while Johnson represents the 6th Congressional District that covers the remainder of the county, including the city of Athens.
Most Republican Congressmen in the state voted in favor of the compromise supported by House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican. Two Republicans, Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Mike Turner, R-Centerville, voted against it. Jordan leads the Tea Party-inspired Republican Study Committee in the U.S. House. Both Gibbs and Johnson are members of that group, but in this case sided with the more establishment side of the party represented by Boehner.
All five congressional Democrats from Ohio voted against the measure in protest of concessions made by President Obama and Democratic leaders. This signals a fair amount of discontent with the president among the Democratic Party base over the compromises he's made with Republicans. Many Democrats have protested that tax breaks to high-income Americans that add to the nation's deficit problems are being continued while seniors and low-income Americans will carry most of the burden of the spending cuts that are being put in place. The deal also takes a good whack at defense spending.
In the U.S. House, 95 Democrats and 174 Republicans voted for the compromise, while 95 Democrats and 66 Republicans voted against it, bringing the total vote to 269-161. The bill passed in the U.S. Senate 74 to 26, with both Ohio's U.S. senators supporting it.
After signing the bill, President Obama slammed his Republican opposition for what he characterized as a manufactured and avoidable crisis.
"Voters may have chosen divided government," he said, "but they sure didn't vote for dysfunctional government."
Republicans, though they control only one-third of the process with a majority in the U.S. House, were effectively able to shape the nature of the compromise through an unwillingness to cede any ground in the debate despite the looming threat that the federal government would have been unable to operate and pay its debts if a solution was not reached by Tuesday's deadline.
At issue was whether credit rating agencies such as Moody's and Standard and Poor's would lower the United States' AAA rating, which would lead to higher interest rates and, some have warned, another recession.
On Tuesday evening, Moody's announced that it would not immediately lower the government's credit rating, but warned that it was prepared to downgrade it unless more is done to deal with the nation's deficits.
Both Johnson and Gibbs have made the nation's deficits and debt central to their 2010 campaigns as well as their time in office thus far. However, both of them, taking the Tea Party's lead, have refused to consider addressing the deficit on the revenue side of the ledger. Both have signed anti-tax pledges.
In the current instance, both Johnson and Gibbs had said that rolling back the Bush II tax cuts for high-income Americans was out of the question.
The Washington Post's Fact Checker section stated that thus far these tax cuts, and their extension negotiated by Obama in a deal with Congressional Republicans, have amounted to $2.8 trillion in lost revenues.
The deal that was reached, according to the Financial Times, cuts $917 billion from domestic discretionary spending over 10 years. About $350 billion of those cuts go to the Pentagon's budget. The deal also instructs a new congressional committee to identify a further $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions during the next 10 years. If that committee fails to reach an agreement, automatic spending cuts will generate $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction. Of that, $500 billion would come from the defense budget, while the remainder would come from across-the-board reductions in other areas.
Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance and veterans benefits are all excluded from that "sequester." Medicare cuts to beneficiaries would also be protected, but Medicare payments to providers such as drug companies, doctors and hospitals would not.
The debt ceiling has been raised enough to carry the country through to the beginning of 2013.
On Monday, Johnson sent out a release saying that the passage of the compromise is not a call for celebration but rather "a first step in a long journey to return America to fiscal health."
"I want to be absolutely clear: the Budget Control Act of 2011 does not solve America's fiscal problem," he said. "We are still massively in debt, and it's going to take years of determined and steadfast fiscal discipline to dig out of the hole that's been created by the irresponsible and reckless spending of previous Congresses and White House administrations. We must strive for a balanced budget not a balanced approach that will put our nation on the path to fiscal integrity, create jobs, and ensure economic growth."
Gibbs also said that the compromise is not the ultimate solution, but lauded the work of Republicans in changing the terms of debate in Washington.
"Since day one, I have said I would not support a debt limit increase without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt," he said. "This realistic approach allows us to prevent the United States from going into default for the first time in history and cuts government spending by more than it increases the debt limit. It also imposes tough caps to restrain future spending without any job-killing tax hikes and guarantees the American people a vote in both the House and Senate on a balanced budget amendment."