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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ayotte says ‘No’ to debt limit bill

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., broke with her delegation and party leaders in opposing the deal on the debt ceiling that cleared the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., endorsed the measure; a day earlier, congressmen Charles Bass and Frank Guinta, both R-N.H., voted for it as well.

By 74-26, the Senate approved this agreement that raises the federal debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion in two steps and resolves the matter until after the 2012 elections.

The House approved it, 269-161, Monday night.

Ayotte, a first-term senator and Nashua resident, said the final agreement does not cut federal spending enough and fails to get serious about reforming entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare.

“While I appreciate that we are beginning to change the discussion here in Washington, I cannot support this agreement,” Ayotte said in announcing her vote in a Senate speech. “I appreciate that it’s very important that we avoid default, but I know that we are better than this.”

The bill calls for federal spending cuts of nearly $1 trillion over the next 10 years.

A 12-person congressional committee would have to identify by Nov. 23 another $1.5 trillion in spending cuts.

If the Congress refuses the committee recommendations, it automatically triggers cuts in domestic and defense spending to meet the $1.5 trillion target.

In her remarks, Ayotte pointed out the agreement calls for $830 billion of higher spending over the decade.

“Many of the cuts are in the out years beyond 2015, and you know what happens in Washington when the cuts are in the out years,” Ayotte said. “Unfortunately, our history has been that they don’t get done. That’s why I’m concerned about the $917 billion claim in reductions, which is not a reduction in spending.”

Shaheen said there was enough progress made with this deal to warrant her support.

“This compromise achieves four critical things: it avoids a default that could have devastated our economy; it gives businesses the certainty they need to grow and hire by resolving this issue until 2013; it makes significant reductions in our long-term deficit and debt; and it protects Social Security and Medicare benefits,” Shaheen said in her statement.

“Although this is not the plan I would have designed, and while I remain concerned about the level of cuts still possible to programs that are important to New Hampshire families and businesses, this plan is a compromise, and I will support it.”

In the Senate, all but six Democrats backed the deal.

The GOP bloc was more divided with 18 Senate Republicans joining Ayotte in opposition; 28 Senate Republicans voted for it.

Bass said it was important that the agreement cuts spending more than it raises new debt.

Last spring, Bass called for the creation of a similar, super-committee to make recommendations on how to put the federal budget on a path to balance in the future.

“No one said this would be easy, and I didn’t come back to Congress to avoid making tough decisions like this one,” said Bass, who voters returned to the 2nd Congressional District seat last fall.

Bass held the seat previously for 12 years before losing in 2006.

“With this debate, we have taken the first steps to reforming the way Washington spends taxpayer money. It is only the beginning and there is still much work to be done. However, it’s encouraging that finally there is bipartisan recognition that deficits and the debt really matter.”

Like Ayotte, Guinta serves on the budget committee.

He stressed the agreement does not raise federal taxes.

“It honors the spirit of Cut, Cap and Balance, which I still believe is the best vehicle for putting our country’s finances in order by making real cuts and implementing spending controls,” Guinta said.

“It also requires Congress to act on a balanced budget amendment, which would force Washington to finally live within its means. Plus, the bill allows the government to keep paying its bills, and it does it without raising taxes.”

Groups concerned with the now-approved cuts to domestic programs plan a forum tonight at the Nashua Public Library starting at 6:30.

NH Citizens Alliance and the union-affiliated, Working Families Win are co-hosting what they call a “Workshop on the Essential Budget.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.