Area Politicians Struggle With Debt Solution

Mixed opinions among local lawmakers

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    U.S. Vice President Joe Biden talks with reporters after a meeting with House Democrats about the debt limit plan now before Congress, at the U.S. Capitol.

    The debt-ceiling compromise probably won’t end the tax and spending debate anytime soon.

    As President Obama demanded, the deal would allow the debt limit to rise by enough to tide the Treasury over until after the 2012 elections.

    The trade-off for Republicans would come in the form of spending cuts of slightly more than the increase in the debt limit, as they have demanded.

    There’s no provision to extend unemployment benefits for victims of the recession that the president wanted and no roll-back of the Bush-era tax cuts, characterized as a tax increase by Republicans.

    Vice President Joe Biden headed to the Capitol on Monday for meetings with House and Senate Democrats, to help seal the deal.

    Local lawmakers support or rejection of the various plans considered by Congress breaks down along party lines.

    Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey supports the compromise plan in order “to avoid default, cut government spending and provide some economic certainty.”

    Republican Pa. Sen. Pat Toomey voted in favor of the long-debated House GOP plan that was ultimately rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

    New Jersey’s Democratic Senators, Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg both voted to raise the debt limit to avoid default. “I am not excited about the decisions we are being forced to make,” said Menendez.

    Delaware Democratic Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons generally support Pres. Obama’s call for a balanced approach that would combine spending cuts with new tax revenue. The Delaware delegation, including Democratic Rep. John Carney, told delawareonline.com that they got an earful from constituents about the debate in Washington, at a weekend visit to the Delaware State Fair.

    Sen. Carper will hold a telephone town hall meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, if there’s no conflict with the Senate vote.

    In the House, Pennsylvania Democrats Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah, Allyson Schwartz, Jason Altmire, Mike Doyle, Mark Critz and Tim Holden all voted against the Republican-crafted debt bill.

    That plan had the support of Pennsylvania Republican Congressmen Charlie Dent, Mike Fitzpatrick, Jim Gerlach, Pat Meehan, Lou Barletta, Mike Kelly, Tim Murphy, Glenn Thompson, Bill Shuster, Tom Marino, Todd Platts and Joe Pitts.

    “We are granting the President’s request to raise the debt ceiling, but we are not handing him a blank check,” said Gerlach.

    Rep. Meehan issued a statement praising the agreement.

    "I believe that the Obama-Boehner-Reid agreement – although not perfect – is a serious and substantive effort to rein in our out-of-control spending and establish long-term deficit savings," Meehan offered on Monday.

    Bucks County’s Fitzpatrick told the Courier Times he was “cautiously optimistic” that the compromise agreement would win approval.

    On the Republicans’ Sunday night conference call on the debt deal, Politico.com reports Pa. GOP freshman Rep. Mike Kelly said GOP House Speaker John Boehner should have a Gatorade and a cigarette.

    “How about a Merlot and a cigarette,” Boehner replied, according to a GOP source who listened in.

    New Jersey Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews said he will support raising the debt limit and speculated the support for the deal will have to come from the “middle” of both parties.

    See details of the bipartisan debt deal here.