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(Vermont’s Congressional delegation explains members’ individual votes on this week’s debt ceiling/deficit reduction vote.)
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont
The wealthiest people in this country and the largest corporations who are doing phenomenally well today are not being asked to contribute one penny in shared sacrifice toward deficit reduction. On the other hand, middle-class and working families who are suffering terribly in the midst of this horrible recession are being asked to shoulder 100 percent of the human cost of lowering our deficit. This is not only grossly unfair, it is bad economic policy.
This two-part deficit-reduction legislation is complicated, and it is impossible to predict exactly which programs will be cut and by how much because the process requires action by appropriation committees and a new super committee in months to come.
But it is very clear that there will be devastating cuts to education, infrastructure, Head Start and child care, LIHEAP, community health centers, environmental protection, affordable housing and many, many other programs. I am also concerned that when we hear that ‘everything is on the table’ in terms of what this super committee deals with it will certainly include devastating cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and veterans’ needs, while protecting the interests of the wealthy and large corporations.
This country needs deficit reduction, but we need to do it in a way that is fair and which will result in economic growth and job creation. This proposal does neither and I will oppose it.
U.S. Representative Peter Welch, D-Vermont
Rep. Peter Welch issued the following statement after the House voted on a budget deal negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders. Welch opposed the measure, which passed by a vote of 269 to 161.
From the start of this debate, I have been guided by two objectives: First, America must pay its bills. Congress and the president should negotiate, but America should never default. Second, we need a balanced agreement that puts everything on the table.
While I am pleased that, with this agreement, America will continue to pay its bills, I voted against it because it is not a balanced plan with shared sacrifice. It ignores glaring inequities in the federal tax code while cutting programs important to the middle class, seniors and low-income Americans. There is simply no excuse for condoning continued tax breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers, the ethanol industry and big oil companies while the middle class struggles to hang on to their jobs, pay their bills and send their children to college.
I also voted against this bill because it validates the tactic of putting a gun to the head of the American economy to advance a party’s agenda. Never before has a willful majority in Congress held hostage the full faith and credit of the United States of America in order to get its way on the budget. This is a dangerous precedent that will make it more difficult than ever for Congress to meet the many challenges facing our country. It is regrettable that those who employed it have succeeded.
Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont
With no time to spare, this bipartisan solution has averted a manufactured crisis that has held hostage our entire economy and every American family in it. A default on U.S. obligations for the first time in our history would have imposed incalculable harm and a credit rate tax on every citizen, every state, every community and every business.
This is not a solution I would have preferred, but the compromise finally reached by the White House and congressional leaders puts common sense and the national interest above partisanship and ideology.
Our country was pushed to the brink of catastrophe. The choice at hand was not this bill or something better. The choice is between the only bipartisan practical solution to the debt ceiling crisis, or a devastating default on the nation’s debts for the first time in our history. A default would send shock waves throughout our fragile economy. It would slap a credit rate tax on every household and every business in Vermont and across the country.
The bipartisan agreement includes $3 trillion in spending reductions reached through bipartisan negotiations that will yield the greatest overall budget savings ever. Just as Vermont families are having to make difficult financial decisions, we need to make long-term budget reforms, and the country should be spared the ordeal of having to go through this same kind of torment again just a few months from now.
The Special Congressional Committee chartered by this legislation to recommend future deficit reduction can consider revenue measures, and I will continue to push for an end to outdated tax loopholes for giant oil firms and companies that ship American jobs overseas. I also continue to believe that the wealthiest Americans should pay their fair share in these solutions.
If the Special Congressional Committee fails to make bipartisan recommendations, then the agreement calls for cuts in defense spending and protections for Social Security, Medicare benefits, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and child nutrition. I strongly support these protections.
All along the American people have wanted this debt-limit crisis resolved promptly and fairly through the give-and-take of our representative government. It is extremely unfortunate that many who manufactured this crisis in the first place then stood in the way of a solution for weeks on end, threatening the first default on United States obligations in our history.
Many in the Senate recall, as I do, the period just two short decades ago when Congress and a Democratic president were able to balance the federal budget and create budget surpluses that were on their way to paying off the national debt altogether. I remember also the key Senate vote to put us on that path, which had to be achieved without any support from the other side of the aisle. Those balanced budgets and surpluses also were achieved without any constitutional amendment requiring them. And those surpluses grew, until subsequent decisions were made by a new administration, and ratified by a new Congress, that squandered the surpluses and piled the debt up once again.
What the American people want, need and deserve is a return to wise and disciplined leadership. We need the return of a willingness to cooperate and to forge solutions across partisan lines to solve the most pressing issues facing the country. The economic health of the nation and the jobs of millions of hardworking Americans should not be mired in politics.
The Senate throughout history has shown its remarkable ability to rise up in times of crisis to reflect the conscience of the nation. Once again, for the good of the country, Democrats and Republicans in both chambers were able to rise to the occasion and put an end to a contrived crisis that has put our entire economy at risk.