The House of Representatives convened at noon Monday for the first time since President Obama and congressional leaders announced that they had reached a historic debt-reduction deal that would raise the country’s borrowing limit through the end of next year and achieve at least $2.1 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade.
Aides said Monday afternoon that the measure could hit the floor by the evening. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said as he opened up the Senate on Monday morning that after party caucus luncheons, he would have further details on whether he might schedule a vote for later in the afternoon.
The debt compromise faces particularly tough odds in the House, where members of both parties’ bases have expressed opposition. The range of views was evident in the short speeches delivered by lawmakers on the floor early Monday afternoon.
What was most telling about the brief floor debate was that all of the Democrats who rose to speak criticized the debt agreement, while all of the Republicans who spoke on the deal praised it.
Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) was the first speaker on the floor Monday; she spoke in favor of the debt deal, arguing that Republicans had “changed the conversation in Washington.”
Next up was Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), who criticized the process that the debt deal would enact. When big decisions are made by a few people behind closed doors inside the Beltway, Holt said, “ordinary folks” are left out. He asked his colleagues: “What makes anybody think that a super-committee” would do a better job of working on behalf of ordinary Americans?
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) criticized the spending priorities reflected in the debt deal. “Student financial aid,” he said. “That’s the only cut specified. What kind of world do you people live in?”
Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), like Miller, sounded like a fan of the deal. “House Republicans have fundamentally changed the debate in Washington,” he said.
But Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) decried the agreement as “the simple raising of the debt ceiling, now on the backs of those who cannot help themselves.”
Domestic discretionary spending is at its lowest level since the Eisenhower years, Del. Donna Christensen (D-Virgin Islands) argued. Why cut more? “We might as well resign our leadership position in the world now.”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) urged members to continue working toward a balanced budget amendment — something that has become a rallying point for conservatives in the debt-limit debate. “We need to continue to push for a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution, because ultimately that’s the accountability we need to ensure that we change the culture of spending in Washington,” he said.