If the debt ceiling is going to be raised, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., wants there to be dollar-for-dollar reductions in spending for every dollar the ceiling is raised; an end to emergency "deals" to avert a shutdown of the federal government by keeping the doors open but forcing spending cuts if spending bills are not passed; and provisions to ensure the United States does not default on its debt. Those were all amendments to the debt ceiling increase bill (H.R. 325) that Enzi voted for but were defeated in the Senate on Thursday. Enzi also voted against the final passage of the bill.
The House passed H.R. 325 last week, a bill that would suspend the debt limit statute until May 19. On May 19, the debt limit will be raised by the amount of new debt issued from the enactment of this bill through May 18 but only for the amount that is necessary to pay the bills that come due before May 18.
"When President Obama was a U.S. senator, he said that raising the debt ceiling was a sign of leadership failure and then voted against raising the debt ceiling," said Enzi. "That was more than four years ago. What do we call it now? The Senate hasn't passed a budget in almost four years. Our debt has increased by nearly $6 trillion. This will be the fifth year that we've overspent by more than $1 trillion. Why? Because we're addicted to spending money we don't have and refuse to honor the limits we've put on ourselves.
"Our debt ceiling has to be a line in the sand, not another excuse to extend our credit line. We shouldn't be kicking the can down the road any longer. What we're attempting to kick is so much larger and it's going to crush future generations under the bills we've racked up but weren't willing to pay for."
The bill also contains a No Budget, No Pay provision that requires that the House and Senate agree to their own budget for fiscal year 2014 by April 15 or compensation for Members of Congress will be suspended until a budget resolution is passed or we reach the end of the 113th Congress in early 2015, whichever comes earlier. Senator Enzi is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the No Budget, No Pay Act, but said this one good provision was not enough to overcome the overall fiscal irresponsibility of the larger measure.
"We should pass No Budget, No Pay, but adding it as sweetener to a bad bill is another example of why Congress should stop deal making and start legislating through the committee process with amendments," Enzi said.
Senator Enzi voted in favor of including the following amendments to the debt ceiling legislation:
Portman Amendment (Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act)
The amendment would require that any official presidential request to increase the debt limit include a legislative proposal reducing non-interest spending over the next decade by the amount of the requested debt limit increase.
Portman Amendment (End Government Shutdowns Act)
The amendment would automatically continue funding for discretionary programs whose budget has not yet been enacted by October 1. At the end of the first 120-day period that an appropriations bill remains unfinished past the October 1 deadline, the spending level for each program, project, and activity will be reduced by 1 percentage point. Should appropriations bills remain unfinished after the initial 120-day cut, an additional cut of one percentage point will be made every 90 days until the bills are completed. All discretionary spending will be treated equally and receive a 1 one percent cut with no exceptions.
Toomey Amendment (Ensuring the Full Faith and Credit of the United States and Protecting America's Soldiers and Seniors Act)
The amendment provides that if the U.S. government reaches its statutory debt limit, three items will be given priority over all other obligations -- (i) principal and interest payments on the debt; (ii) Social Security payments; and (iii) pay for active duty armed service members.
Vitter Amendment (Motion to Recommit debt ceiling bill)
This motion requires that federal spending be reduced to equal the estimated increase in the debt limit provided for in the bill.