As the debt ceiling debate continues, the House of Representatives voted last night for a package of spending cuts and structural reforms known as “Cut, Cap, and Balance”. The measure would raise the debt ceiling only if a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution was passed. The amendment would gradually cap federal spending to roughly 18% of Gross Domestic Product, down from the current 23%. A supermajority of Congress would be needed in order to raise taxes. The amendment could be suspended during times of war or other crises.
The House of Representatives voted in favor of the measure in a 234-190 vote. North Carolina’s congressional delegation split on the issue, with seven voting in favor of the measure and six against. Reps. Heath Shuler (D-11) and Mike McIntyre (D-7) were among the five Democrats in the House who voted in favor of the measure, while Rep. Walter Jones was one of nine Republicans voting against the bill.
The remainder of the delegation voted on party lines. Democratic Reps. Miller, Price, Butterfield, and Watt voted no, while Republican Reps. Myrick, Elllmers, Foxx, McHenry and Coble voted yes.
McIntyre and Shuler, both members of the moderate “Blue Dog” caucus, will likely face tough reelection fights after their districts are altered during the redistricting process.
Rep. Jones often bucks Republican party leadership on issues -aligning with libertarians like Ron Paul while also voting in favor of increasing minimum wage. Jones has sponsored balanced-budget amendments in the past.
Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-2) released a statement explaining her support for Cut, Cap, and Balance:
“The Cut, Cap and Balance Act, which the House will vote on today, is a constitutional, permanent solution to put an end to the spending-driven debt crisis and save our children and grandchildren from a bankrupt future. We must get our financial house in order and this bill will require Washington to balance its budget, just as families across the country do each and every day,” said Ellmers.
While the measure is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate or be signed by the President, it is the only legislation addressing the debt ceiling to pass either house of Congress so far. Senate-based plans, such as the Gang of Six proposal or the plan released by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, would likely face a tough vote in the Republican House, due to their tax increases, lower levels of spending cuts, or, in the case of the McConnell plan, leeway given to President Obama.
The Treasury Department has warned that the debt ceiling must be raised by August 2 in order for the federal government to meet its obligations, although some dispute this timeline.