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Georgia congressional delegation reacts to debt ceiling vote

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, said the vote Wednesday on the debt ceiling did nothing to address the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, said the vote Wednesday on the debt ceiling did nothing to address the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

WASHINGTON — The late-night action by Congress Wednesday averted a potential fiscal crisis, at least until early 2014.

In Georgia, the House delegation was split along party lines in supporting the bill that passed the chamber by a 141-vote margin. In the Senate, Georgia’s two senators, both Republicans, voted in favor of the bill, which resulting in ending the partial federal government shutdown that started Oct. 1, as well as raising the debt ceiling so that the U.S. Treasury could meet financial obligations.

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U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, said adoption of his proposed biennial budgeting process would help Congress get its fiscal house in order.

But while Sens. Saxby Chambliss, R-Moultrie, and Johnny Isakson, R-Marietta, joined 24 other Republicans, the Senate’s 53 Democrats and two independents in passing the resolution by an 81-18 vote, it was clear that neither senator felt the short-term resolution addressed the nation’s long-term fiscal problems.

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U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, said he hopes Congress has learned from its mistakes and lawmakers will work together toward a balanced federal spending plan.

“For the past 10 years,” Chambliss said Thursday, “economic growth has been at 2 percent or less. Our debt is nearly $17 trillion, and nothing we did last (Wednesday) night addressed our deficit spending. Americans have demanded that leaders in both parties make the necessary changes to put our nation on track to sustained economic growth and real job creation. These choices may not be ones we would like to make, but ones we must make — now.

“Bowles-Simpson laid out a straightforward approach to addressing our nation’s enormous fiscal challenges. With spending levels lowered through sequestration, we can now focus on reforming entitlements, simplifying the tax code to lower rates, and invigorating the economy. It is time to look beyond the recent short-term debates and embrace a comprehensive, balanced plan that will restore America to economic greatness.”

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U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, said he could not support the continuing resolution Wednesday and that he will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility in Washington.

Isakson said the the “past few weeks should be a wake-up call. It’s time that Congress gets back to doing our job of budgeting, appropriating and conducting oversight to address our unsustainable debt and deficits. That’s why I have introduced a bipartisan bill, the Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act, with Sen. Shaheen that would reform our nation’s broken budget process and restore fiscal discipline.

“Today’s (Wednesday) bipartisan agreement reopens the federal government through January 15 and sets up budget negotiations between the House and Senate for a long-term spending plan. I’m pleased that the bill averts a default while preserving and protecting the historic government spending cuts from the Budget Control Act of 2011 that have resulted in the largest spending cuts in 50 years. I am also very pleased that this bill will help prevent fraud and abuse by strengthening income verification measures to determine who will be eligible for subsidies under Obamacare.”

In the House, Georgia’s delegation split 9-5 along party lines against the Senate resolution, which passed the chamber by a 285-144 vote. Georgia’s Republican lawmakers joined with 135 others who opposed the measure, while 87 Republicans endorsed it. On the Democratic side of the aisle, there were 198 votes in favor and two who did not vote, with one Republican also abstaining.

“Emerging from Congress’ seemingly endless deadlock, I applaud the president and my colleagues in the House and Senate for their extraordinary effort in reaching a path to reopen government, cancel furloughs, and raise the debt ceiling,” said U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany. “With the lessons of this government shutdown revealed, I remain hopeful that Congress will learn from its mistakes, go into conference, and produce a reasonable, balanced budget that alleviates sequestration, creates jobs, reduces the deficit, and restores stability to our economy for the benefit of all Americans across our great nation.”

U.S. Rep. Austin Scott, R-Tifton, voted against passage. In a statement on his Facebook page, Scott, who has been named to the conference committee for the U.S. farm bill negotiations, said: “From the start I have said that every American is in this together, and every American should be treated the same, Congress included. The House put forth every effort to negotiate with the president to keep the government running and address our nation’s debt while standing strong on our principles to protect the American citizens from Obamacare.

“I did not support the Senate compromise, and I will continue fighting to protect hardworking families in Georgia from this devastating law and the President’s irresponsible spending.”

Chambliss said Wednesday that trying to stop implementation of the Affordable Care Act through the shutdown and debt ceiling was doomed tactics from the start.

“I agree with my fellow Republicans and the American people that Obamacare is a deeply flawed and damaging law,” he said. “I remain as committed as ever to dismantling Obamacare before it has a chance to further damage our economy.

“However, defunding Obamacare in the CR (continuing resolution) was never a realistic goal. Republicans control only one-half of one-third of the federal government, and the president has the power to veto. Shutting down the government only placed undue stress on Americans and on the economy, and lost Republican’s advantage to negotiate on the debt ceiling.”

Chambliss said Wednesday that rather than focusing on the ACA, GOP lawmakers should have negotiated longer-term spending reforms in addressing the debt ceiling.

“Our fiscal crisis is the most important challenge we face,” he said. “While I don’t believe Congress should allow a potentially catastrophic default by the federal government, I do believe that any increase in the debt ceiling should have come with policy reforms and assurances that future spending and deficits are being addressed in a meaningful way. If Republicans had chosen to use the debt ceiling as an opportunity to force action on our debt and deficit, we could have won more spending cuts and significant reforms to entitlements. Instead, we took no concrete steps toward reducing America’s public debt, and simply preserved the spending cuts we won in 2011.

“For our nation to be strong, for our country to prosper, we cannot continue to play politics with the American economy. We will have another opportunity to address the debt ceiling in the coming months, and I hope my colleagues across-the-aisle and across-the-Capitol will stop the partisan posturing and begin working together to retire our nearly $17 trillion debt.”