WASHINGTON — As expected, the Republican members of Louisiana’s U.S. House delegation voted arm-in-arm against raising the national debt ceiling Tuesday night, calling instead for huge spending cuts.
The House of Representatives, on a vote of 97 for and 318 against, with seven voting “present,” defeated a measure to increase the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion.
“The bottom line is that the debt is a threat to our national security and economic security,” said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.
“I want to see some serious financial responsibility and serious cuts.”
Raising the debt ceiling allows the federal government to borrow money to pay its financial obligations.
The government has reached the limit of its borrowing authority, $14.3 trillion.
The Tuesday vote was mostly symbolic since Congress and the administration have until Aug. 2, when government costs exceed the amount of revenue available.
President Barack Obama plans to address a GOP conference Wednesday in hopes of coming to agreement on budget issues.
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, called the vote a signal to Obama.
“His wild spending has to end,” Scalise said.
All six of the Louisiana House Republicans voted against raising the debt ceiling.
The lone Democrat, Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, voted for the measure.
The nation’s $1.6 trillion budget deficit has swelled since 2000 when Congress had a surplus worth $127 billion.
Among the big ticket items under former President George W. Bush were the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, broad tax cuts that reduced revenue and payment for administration programs, with the Medicare prescription drug program the most costly.
Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, acknowledged the budget deficit began under Bush, but said Obama has done little to slow down federal spending.
Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said the downturn in revenue under the initial Bush tax cuts likely hurt the deficit.
Removing any of the tax cuts now would amount to a tax increase during a recession, the wrong time, he said.
“We have to address spending before we ever consider raising taxes,” Alexander said.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, said Obama and the previous Democratic-led Congress raised the debt ceiling three times since 2006, worth close to $3 trillion.
“No one is going to vote for something that is not going to address the debt,” Cassidy said.
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, supported by tea party activists, said getting him to vote for any debt limit legislation will be difficult.
“It’s going to have to be a lot of people back home telling me their comfortable with it,” Landry said. “We can only kick this can down the road for so long.”