WASHINGTON — Minnesota’s House delegation had mixed support for a debt limit increase bill that passed the House of Representatives on Monday evening.
The final vote was 266-161. Minnesota Republicans John Kline and Erik Paulsen and Democrats Collin Peterson and Tim Walz voted for the package, which includes $1 trillion in spending cuts and establishes a special committee to find a further $1.5 trillion in savings. The debt limit will increase by up to $2.5 trillion if Congress approves those cuts, meaning the issue will not come up again until 2013.
Republican Michele Bachmann has long opposed raising the debt limit and was an obvious no vote. Like he had with previous debt limit votes this summer, Republican Chip Cravaack kept his vote secret until the last minute.
He indicated early in the day that he was concerned over potential cuts that could be passed on to the military in the event that Congress fails to approve the savings established by the joint committee; he repeated that after the vote.
He also added he was worried that the bill didn’t produce the savings necessarily to completely fend off a decrease in the country’s bond rating. In general, he wanted a package that cut spending by more than this one did.
“In my opinion it’s putting a three inch band aid on a five inch artery,” he said. “It doesn’t solve the problem. My true measure of this was, does it solve the problem?”
Reps. Keith Ellison and Betty McCollum, the most liberal members of the state’s delegation, were expected to vote against the legislation. Ellison was especially outspoken about the legislation, appearing on CNN after the vote and authoring a letter with his Congressional Progressive Caucus colleagues opposing the plan.
McCollum released a statement after the vote ripping the bill.
“Tying massive cuts to a debt ceiling increase is completely unnecessary, totally counterproductive, and it will make America’s job crisis even worse,” she said. “And, with this bill, the Republicans are tossing the heavy burden of deficit reduction onto America’s middle class without asking even one penny from the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations.”
The House is now in recess until Sept. 7.
The Senate will take up the debt limit bill Tuesday, with support from both Republican and Democratic leaders. On Monday, both Minnesota senators, Democrats Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, announced they’d vote for the legislation.
“While it is certainly not a perfect plan, the time has come to break through the partisan stalemate and pass a solution that provides certainty so we can move our country forward,” Klobuchar said in a statement.
Franken, in an interview, said he has mixed feelings on the bill. Like most Democrats, he had called for a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and tax increases. As it stands, there are only spending cuts.
But Franken said he was pleased that the debt limit won’t be an issue until 2013.
“It’s a long-term solution. Now we can get back to our job of growing the economy,” he said. “I don’t feel great about it. I’m relieved that we got to a resolution.”
Giffords makes a surprise appearance
The House’s passage of the debt deal ends an extremely hard-fought wrestling match between Republicans and Democrats who spent the summer arguing over how to best solve the matter.
But when Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords made a surprise appearance on the House floor before Monday’s vote, members of both parties rose as one to greet her with a standing ovation.
In January, Giffords was shot in the head during a failed assassination attempt in Tucson that killed six bystanders. She’s been in rehabilitation and hasn’t made a public appearance in Washington since.
But just before 7 p.m. local time, Giffords’ official Twitter account announced she was in town to vote on the bill. Reporters waiting off the House floor crowded around doors looking into the chamber to catch a glimpse of her arrival.
She walked into the chamber shortly after the tweet. Every lawmaker in the chamber, as well as onlookers in the gallery, rose and gave her a sustained applause. She cast a vote in favor of the bill.
After the vote, she tweeted: “The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight.”
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com.