WASHINGTON — Several House Republicans from Louisiana dismissed claims they voted Tuesday to approve a “cut, cap, balance” debt and deficit bill that was more symbolic than practical.
Senate Republicans don’t have the votes in that chamber to approve the plan, which would have cut and capped spending while calling for a constitutional balance budget amendment.
President Barack Obama said he would veto the bill if it reached his desk.
GOP congressmen from Louisiana said the vote was necessary to stake out their position on the national debt and federal budget deficit argument.
“The American people deserve at least some sense of, ‘OK, if not this, then what?’ ” Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said. “It might be a symbolic vote, but it’s decent policy.”
The measure would allow a $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase in exchange for both chambers attaining the necessary two-thirds majorities to send a balanced budget constitutional amendment to 50 states.
Federal spending would be capped at 20 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2021, including $1 trillion next year.
Democrats oppose the measure, claiming that it will constrict spending on necessary federal programs and affect entitlement spending on the big three — Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, joined his colleagues who painted the vote as political theater.
“This is just more posturing than we need,” Richmond said. “So why don’t we sit down like adults and figure out a way to both cut and find some revenue and get this country moving in the right direction?”
The state delegation voted for the measure along party lines, with the six Republicans approving of the bill and Richmond opposing.
U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, said the vote will give U.S. House leadership more leverage in negotiations with The White House over the debt and deficit.
“It’s about being in a strong position to negotiate,” Boustany said. “This isn’t the final deal here.”
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said with a Republican House and Democratic Senate every bill passed by the House can be considered a symbolic vote.
Taking a stand on the issue was important, Alexander said.
“Those that feel like we need that to raise the debt ceiling just to protect the interest of the country and at the same time, offer steps to prevent it from happening again, then this is the time to vote,” Alexander said.