WASHINGTON — The Nikkei members of Congress agree that the last-minute debt deal that was approved by the House and Senate and signed by President Barack Obama on Tuesday leaves much to be desired, but they made different decisions on voting for it.
The emergency bill increases the nation’s $14.3 trillion cap on borrowing, avoiding default just hours before the midnight deadline, and begins the process of curbing the country’s spiraling debt.
Though the compromise passed, it angered both conservative Republicans — who said the bill would cut too little from federal spending — and liberal Democrats, who said it would cut too much.
A frustrated Obama, while praising Congress for finally passing the bill, demanded that legislators immediately turn their attention to fixing the economy and creating jobs.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), one of 74 senators who voted in favor of the measure, commented, “This is not a deal that I take any great pride in but it is something we had to do for the good of the country. These cuts, $2.1 trillion over the next decade, are deep and significant and government services will suffer because of them. This proposal contains no new revenue.
“But what can we expect? We were negotiating with a group of people who would see the country default before they backed off their campaign promises. If the United States told the world that we would not meet our financial obligations, the damage to the country and the global economy would have been staggering. The financial markets plummeted while we talked and talked and talked some more.
“I am proud to count myself among those in the Congress who recognize the importance of maintaining the full faith and credit of the United States. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I will do everything in my power to ensure that these cuts do not adversely impact the neediest among us and that this country continues to serve as a model, however flawed, of a democratic society.”
In the House, the four Japanese American members split on the legislation, which passed on Monday by a 269-161 vote.
“I did not support the debt ceiling bill tonight because middle-class working families deserve more than having the budget balanced on their backs,” said Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose). “The cuts to education, infrastructure, broadband, research, food safety and environmental protections do just that. Republicans refused to accept shared sacrifice by closing loopholes for oil companies and ending tax breaks for corporate jets and millionaires and billionaires.”
Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) also voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011 even though she has been working for months to help find a compromise that would avoid a default situation.
“As middle-class families and our seniors struggle to make ends meet, I cannot support a plan that maintains loopholes for corporations that ship jobs overseas and subsidies for Big Oil while putting American families and seniors at risk,” Matsui said. “Since assuming the majority in January, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle have continually gutted the very programs that would help our economy grow: job training programs, education, infrastructure and clean energy.
“This plan creates a cloud of uncertainty, opening the door for severe cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and abdicating critical budget decisions to a newly-formed commission. I will continue to stand firm against Republican efforts to undermine or weaken the long term solvency of these programs — programs that amount to a promise made to the American people — a promise that I intend to keep.
“We should have never gotten to this point. Ensuring that the federal government pays its bills should have never created a default crisis, and has only produced a risky and rushed plan that could undermine our nation’s economic strength for years to come.”
Reps. Mazie Hirono and Colleen Hanabusa (both D-Hawaii) voted for the bill, with reservations.
“Hundreds of people across Hawaii have called our office in the last few days asking that we support President Obama and get an agreement done,” said Hirono. “They’ve been clear they want a compromise that raises the debt ceiling, reduces the deficit, and protects Social Security and Medicare. That is why I supported this agreement.
“No one got everything they wanted in this compromise. It is not as balanced as I would have liked. At the same time, we were able to stop deep cuts to Medicare and Social Security that were part of earlier Republican plans.
“What is most important to me – and to families in Hawaii — is that we avoided defaulting on our country’s obligations. Seniors, our military, and our veterans will receive their checks on time. Retirement accounts have been spared from taking another big hit.”
“I just couldn’t stand by and let the millions of Americans who are already struggling financially to take another hard economic blow,” said Hanabusa. “A default could have increased interests costs by $100 billion a year, and would have impacted everything from mortgages and credit cards, to student loans and car loans.”
“This bill is by no means a perfect piece of legislation — and many Democrats and Republicans agree — but that’s the reality of a compromise. A ‘no’ vote would have led to more uncertainty and anxiety. However, I continue to be perplexed as to why the Republicans choose to hold this president hostage when no other Congress has done so since the debt limit has been in existence.”