Debt ceiling vote creates strange bedfellows

By Len Lazarick

The votes on the debt ceiling deal in Congress made strange bedfellows in Maryland’s congressional delegation.

Arch conservative Andy Harris joined liberal Democrats Elijah Cummings, Donna Edwards and John Sarbanes in opposing the deal, but for vastly different reasons. Republican Roscoe Bartlett joined Democratic leaders Steny Hoyer, Chris Van Hollen and Dutch Ruppersberger, holding his nose and supporting the measure, as did both senators — Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin — for very different reasons.


Photo by Tracy Olson

Both supporters and opponents found a lot to dislike in the compromise, and they all claimed a commitment to creating jobs and improving the economy.

Here is some of what they said. Click on their names for their full statements.

Andy Harris: “I appreciate Speaker Boehner’s remarkable, historic efforts to craft a proposal to solve the debt ceiling issue.  But today’s debt ceiling deal just doesn’t go far enough to build an environment for job creation by requiring passage of a balanced budget amendment to bring permanent common sense accountability to Washington.”

Elijah Cummings: “I voted against this bill because it is the wrong solution, at the wrong time. This bill will take critical money out of education, infrastructure and other crucial programs in the midst of what remains a fragile recovery. I am pleased that we will avoid destroying our credit rating by avoiding a default on our obligations. However, at a time when unemployment rates remain unacceptably high, this bill does nothing to encourage hiring and is, in fact, likely to cost many Americans their jobs.”

Donna Edwards: “I stood with over half of the Democratic Caucus in opposing this unfair, unbalanced attack on the poor and working families. Our most vulnerable have been asked to sacrifice time again, while corporations and the wealthy are required to give little or nothing.  Unfortunately, I felt this legislation continues that unacceptable trend.”

John Sarbanes: “I recognize that raising the debt ceiling is the only way our country could continue to meet its obligations. That’s why I voted to raise the debt ceiling in June to ensure that the U.S. Government pays its bills on time and in full. I was concerned at the time that delaying action would lead to a prolonged standoff with risky consequences. Unfortunately, my fears were confirmed and the result was the proposal on the floor today, which will lead to significant cuts to programs that benefit the most vulnerable Americans while preserving tax loopholes for oil companies and other special interests.”

Roscoe Bartlett: “This is a very bad bill, but the next alternative bill would be worse and the worst immediate consequence of doing nothing would be the first-ever default by the United States. That is why I will vote yes tonight on the debt limit agreement. Americans can’t afford to have our country default on its debt payments. Thanks to the Republican majority in the House, this agreement doesn’t make our debt problem worse. This agreement forces this Congress and this President to reduce the federal government’s exploding debt. Thanks to the Republican majority in the House Americans will not face permanent tax increases enacted now in exchange for a minuscule reduction in the growth of federal government spending.  Thanks to the efforts of Republicans, this agreement also compels this Congress, both the Senate and the House, to vote on a balanced budget amendment.”

Steny Hoyer:   (on the floor of the House) “[Our] responsibility is to ensure that America pays its bills; that America’s creditworthiness is not put at risk; that America, which has incurred obligations, meets those obligations, to individuals and to others. As we have made policies which have cost money, it is now necessary to pay the bills that we have already incurred. But as we engage in that debate and discussion, we must remember that in our country one child out of every five is living in poverty, is worried about proper food, proper housing, proper medical care.”

Chris Van Hollen: “There’s much in this plan I don’t like. We did not succeed in shutting down special interest tax loopholes that add hundreds of billions of dollars to our deficits. Our Republican colleagues refused to cut those subsidies for big oil companies, they refused to end breaks for corporate jets. Now we’re going to have a great debate about how to grow the economy and reduce our long-term deficit. It will be a debate about our national priorities.”

Dutch Ruppersberger: “I was confident that whether conservative, progressive or moderate, in the end, Congress would do the right thing for our country. Default was simply not an option. This political chess game has needlessly scared American families, concerned American businesses and crippled Washington for the past month. It’s time to get back to our top goal of creating jobs.”

Barbara Mikulski: “This agreement is stark and stern, but necessary. It includes cuts that I would have never voted for under different circumstances. However, if we had failed to take action, the economy of the United States would have been irrevocably fractured. … It provides a long-term extension of the debt ceiling, a significant down-payment on cuts, and a path forward to reform tax earmarks and entitlements.”

Ben Cardin: “This budget crisis has already harmed our nation and could have been avoided. Unfortunately, a few Republican lawmakers have held our economy hostage, playing a dangerous game with the full faith and credit of the United States.  The American people made it clear that they want us to work together to find a bipartisan solution to avoid default. They have urged us … to provide certainty to the markets, our creditors, as well as our soldiers fighting overseas, seniors depending on Social Security, small businesses relying on affordable credit, and working families struggling to keep up payments on credit cards.

The resulting agreement is far from perfect, but it is a positive step forward by raising the debt ceiling through 2013, providing important stability to the American people and the financial markets.”

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.