Colorado congressional delegation deeply divided over debt-ceiling deal approved by U.S. House

By David O. Williams
Real AspenAugust 2, 2011
Colorado's congressional delegation split 4-3 Monday night as the U.S. House voted 269-161 to pass a debt ceiling deal that's expected to win approval in the Senate today.

Democrat Diana DeGette joined Republicans Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton in voting no on the measure, while Democrats Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter voted for the deal along with Republicans Mike Coffman and Cory Gardner.

“Here we are at the 11th hour, with a gun to our head, being asked to accept an extreme, unbalanced proposal that places too great a burden on the middle class while failing to ask for any shared sacrifice from corporations and the nation's wealthiest,” DeGette said in a prepared statement. “Frankly, after months of what of could have been productive negotiations to develop a balanced economic path for our country, I resent being forced into this choice.”

Perlmutter, however, said it was matter of not letting America default on its financial obligations by today's Treasury deadline.

U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

“Our nation pays its bills,” Perlmutter said in a release. “This bill preserves the full faith and credit of the United States without sacrificing what makes our country special. American families can't endure any more chaos on this issue, and we must move on. I'm not happy with every part of this bill, but it would be entirely irresponsible to destroy our economy because each of us can't get 100 percent of our demands.”

Coffman, a veteran, made a military analogy.

“As a Marine Corps combat veteran, I see this agreement today as little more than establishing a beachhead in what will be a long and difficult campaign to defeat deficit spending, pass a balanced budget amendment, and to pay down the national debt,” Coffman said.

“The agreement doesn't solve every fiscal challenge but it does move us in the right direction and it is a victory for conservatives because it reduces deficit spending without increasing taxes. By promoting spending discipline we will help the economy grow and create jobs.”

DeGette rejected the bill primarily because of the lack of tax increases for the wealthiest Americans.

“Our nation is still in crisis, and the American people deserve a balanced solution, with reasonable cuts to spending – like agricultural and ethanol subsidies, combined with common-sense revenue enhancements – like closing tax loopholes for corporations and the ultra-rich,” she said.

Tipton, a Tea Party freshman, said the bill simply didn't cut deeply enough.

“I appreciate all of the efforts [House] Speaker {John] Boehner has made on behalf of our country, but the bill simply does not reflect what is necessary to get our fiscal house back in order,” he said. “I cannot authorize a record $2.4 trillion in additional deficit spending without taking larger steps to fixing the underlying problem.”

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., shot by a gunman in Tucson earlier this year, made an inspirational appearance on the House floor to vote for the bill.

The president of the Wilderness Society Monday skewered the compromise and budget-slashing deal, saying its reductions in spending on environmental and conservation policies “threaten to damage our water, our air and our lands beyond repair.”

“Congress doesn't deserve to thump its chest for reaching a debt ceiling compromise on a mess it created,” The Wilderness Society President William H. Meadows said in a release. “This assault is part of a larger effort by some in Congress to give away our great outdoors to corporate polluters and developers, and it's creating an environmental debt that we can't repay.”

Meadows is a critical of Congress for rushing to reach an agreement ahead of the August recess, “abandoning” its work on an Interior Department appropriations bill until lawmakers reconvene in September. Congress will then have to fund Interior using the “debilitating limitations” of the new deal, Meadows added.

“This deal leaves huge, wasteful and unnecessary tax subsidies for the oil and gas industries untouched,” Meadows said.

ExxonMobil last month announced second quarter profits of $10.68 billion, representing a 41 percent increase. Shell saw second quarter profits of $8 billion, up 77 percent.

ExxonMobil suffered a public relations black eye last month for its pipeline spill into the Yellowstone River in Montana, an event that didn't adversely impact its best quarter for profits in three years.

Gardner, a freshman who has relentlessly championed stripping away the regulatory authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this week defended his vote for a previous version of a House debt-ceiling bill later rejected by the Senate.

“Just this week, I voted for a plan that would cut and cap discretionary spending immediately, cutting $22 billion in spending next year, and saving $917 billion over 10 years, and raise the debt ceiling by less – up to $900 billion – in order to avoid default,” Gardner said in his weekly newsletter released on Sunday. “This plan achieves nearly 70 percent of the discretionary spending cuts that were in the House-passed budget and calls for a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment as a condition of further debt ceiling increases.”

His Democratic challenger in the energy rich 4th Congressional District, Colorado Senate President Brandon Shaffer, blasted Gardner Monday for his previous votes on the issue.

“After walking door-to-door this weekend, I can tell you most Coloradans are scratching their heads wondering exactly what is going on in Congress,” Shaffer said. “Quite frankly, this whole episode has been an embarrassment, and embodies what people hate most about politics.

“Our economy still isn't on track and job losses are still looming. Meanwhile, Rep. Gardner joined the radicals in Congress in voting yet again to effectively end Medicare. It's time to put a stop to this nonsense and bring common sense Colorado solutions to Congress. That is what I plan to do.”

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