Debt ceiling vote fails in the House

WASHINGTON – As expected, a bill to raise the nation’s borrowing limit by $2.4 trillion without spending cuts failed in the House of Representatives, garnering just 97 Democratic votes in support and receiving 318 votes in opposition.

The result of the vote is a defeat for the Obama Administration and 100-odd House Democrats who had asked for a so-called “clean” debt ceiling vote that was not attached to a longer-term plan to reduce federal spending.

The entire Republican majority, including all four GOP members of Minnesota’s delegation, voted as bloc against the measure.

“It would be irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process,” said Republican Rep. John Kline in a statement.

Tomorrow, House Republicans will meet with President Obama in a closed-door meeting to discuss next steps on raising the limit and reaching a longer-term deal to balance the federal budget.

“Now we gotta negotiate [with Democrats],” said Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, when asked about next steps in the process.

The Treasury Department says it has enough cash to pay for government operations until August 2nd.

Were Congress to fail to raise the debt ceiling by then, the federal government would have to begin defaulting on some of its obligations, although Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has insisted that such an event would not constitute a default and that U.S. debts could be repaid from existing tax revenues.

Republicans were joined by 82 Democrats, including DFL Rep. Collin Peterson.

“I think there needs to be fundamental reform with the budget,” said Peterson shortly before the vote. “Until we get something done that’s sustainable, we shouldn’t be raising the debt limit.”

DFL Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling.

“I’m voting to raise it because I think that if you incur a debt, you should pay it back,” Ellison told MPR News before the vote. “I think it’s irresponsible to not vote yes.”

DFL Rep. Tim Walz was not present for the vote. Spokeswoman Sara Severs said Walz remained in Minnesota after falling ill with a stomach flu, but that he would have voted to raise the debt limit had he been able to make it.

“Refusing to pay your credit card bill is not the way to eliminate your debt,” Severs said. “At a time when our economy is still fragile, the last thing we need is more uncertainty.”

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