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Illinois downstate delegation splits vote to raise debt ceiling

Top L-R: Rep. Nikki Budzinski (D), Rep. Robin Kelly (D), Rep. Eric Sorensen (D). Bottom L-R: Rep. Mike Bost (R), Rep. Darin LaHood (R), Rep. Mary Miller (R)

URBANA – The House of Representatives passed a bill to raise the nation’s debt ceiling on Wednesday night, but Republicans in Illinois’ congressional delegation were against it.

The GOP majority in Congress passed the bill 314 to 117 on Wednesday night. However, Illinois Republican representatives Mike Bost, Darin LaHood, and Mary Miller all issued statements saying they voted no.

Conservative Critics

Bost represents the 12th congressional district in Illinois. He was pointed in his criticism. 

“America is $31 trillion in debt because Washington politicians have failed for decades to stand up and do the right thing,” said Bost (R-IL12) in a statement sent to the media on Wednesday night. “I voted against this bill because we owe it to our children and grandchildren to think bigger and do more to fix the mess we’re in.”

The deal was negotiated between Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Miller, who represents the 15th congressional district, outlined why she didn’t approve the bill. 

“Tonight, I voted NO on the $4 trillion debt ceiling “deal” because it does not contain anywhere near the CUTS and policy changes we need in order to save our country from the fiscal cliff,” said Miller (R-IL15) in a statement.

“I cannot support the agreement in its current form as the bill allows unlimited borrowing over the next two years and does not take long-term steps to address our debt crisis,” said LaHood (R-IL16) in a statement on Wednesday night. “Illinois families who work hard must meet budgets and spend money within their means, and it is long past time that the federal government do the same.”

Democratic Support

Downstate Democratic representatives Nikki Budzinski, Robin Kelly, and Eric Sorenson approved the debt ceiling increase.

Robin Kelly, whose district stretches along the eastern border of Illinois from Chicago to Danville, said in a statement that she supported the measure even though “it doesn’t address all the needs of my community.”

“Without this compromise, our country would hold the blame for a catastrophic default that would devastate not just our economy but the world’s economy,” said Rep. Kelly (D-IL2) in a statement. “Let’s be honest – raising the debt ceiling is a no-brainer. House Democrats did it multiple times during Trump’s administration without issue.”

This is the first term for 13th district representative Nikki Budzinski. In a statement, she praised the bipartisan efforts to raise the debt ceiling. 

“While the deal struck between President Biden and Speaker McCarthy is not perfect, neither side can expect to get everything they want in a divided Congress. The compromise that we passed tonight ensures that the government can keep paying its bills through the next two years,” said Budzinski (D-IL13).

Fellow first time representative Eric Sorensen (D-IL17) tweeted shortly after the vote “compromise keeps our government working.”

What’s in the bill and vote (from Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Veering away from a default crisis, the House approved a debt ceiling and budget cuts package late Wednesday, as President Joe Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy assembled a bipartisan coalition of centrist Democrats and Republicans against fierce conservative blowback and progressive dissent.

The hard-fought deal pleased few, but lawmakers assessed it was better than the alternative — a devastating economic upheaval if Congress failed to act. Tensions ran high throughout the day as hard-right Republicans refused the deal, while Democrats said “extremist” GOP views were risking a debt default as soon as next week.

With the House vote of 314-117, the bill now heads to the Senate with passage expected by week’s end.

McCarthy insisted his party was working to “give America hope” as he launched into a late evening speech extolling the bill’s budget cuts, which he said were needed to curb Washington’s “runaway spending.”

But amid discontent from Republicans who said the spending restrictions did not go far enough, McCarthy said it is only a “first step.”

Earlier, Biden expressed optimism that the agreement he negotiated with McCarthy to lift the nation’s borrowing limit would pass the chamber and avoid an economically disastrous default on America’s debts.

The president departed Washington for Colorado, where he is scheduled to deliver the commencement address Thursday at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

“God willing by the time I land, Congress will have acted, the House will have acted, and we’ll be one step closer,” he said. That wasn’t quite the case — the vote began about an hour and a half after Biden arrived in Colorado.

Biden sent top White House officials to the Capitol to shore up backing. McCarthy worked to sell skeptical fellow Republicans, even fending off challenges to his leadership, in the rush to avert a potentially disastrous U.S. default.

Swift later in the week by the Senate would ensure government checks will continue to go out to Social Security recipients, veterans and others and would prevent financial upheaval at home and abroad. Next Monday is when the Treasury has said the U.S. would run short of money to pay its debts.

Biden and McCarthy were counting on support from the political center, a rarity in divided Washington, testing the leadership of the Democratic president and the Republican speaker.

Overall, the 99-page bill restricts spending for the next two years, suspends the debt ceiling into January 2025 and changes some policies, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans receiving food aid and greenlighting an Appalachian natural gas line that many Democrats oppose. It bolsters funds for defense and veterans.

Raising the nation’s debt limit, now $31 trillion, ensures Treasury can borrow to pay already incurred U.S. debts.

Top GOP deal negotiator Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana said Republicans were fighting for budget cuts after Democrats piled onto deficits with extra spending, first during the COVID-19 crisis and later with Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, with its historic investment to fight climate change.

But Republican Rep. Chip Roy, a member of the Freedom Caucus helping to lead the opposition, said, “My beef is that you cut a deal that shouldn’t have been cut.”

For weeks negotiators labored late into the night to strike the deal with the White House, and for days McCarthy has worked to build support among skeptics. At one point, aides wheeled in pizza at the Capitol the night before the vote as he walked Republicans through the details, fielded questions and encouraged them not to lose sight of the bill’s budget savings.

The speaker has faced a tough crowd. Cheered on by conservative senators and outside groups, the hard-right House Freedom Caucus lambasted the compromise as falling well short of the needed spending cuts, and they vowed to try to halt passage.

A much larger conservative faction, the Republican Study Committee, declined to take a position. Even rank-and-file centrist conservatives were unsure, leaving McCarthy searching for votes from his slim Republican majority.

Ominously, the conservatives warned of possibly trying to oust McCarthy over the compromise.

Biden spoke directly to lawmakers, making calls from the White House.

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said it was up to McCarthy to turn out at least 150 Republican votes, two-thirds of the majority, even as he assured reporters that Democrats would supply the rest to prevent a default. In the 435-member House, 218 votes are needed for approval.

As the tally faltered in the afternoon procedural vote, Jeffries stood silently and raised his green voting card, signaling that the Democrats would fill in the gap to ensure passage. They did, advancing the bill that 29 hard-right Republicans, many from the Freedom Caucus, refused to back.

“Once again, House Democrats to the rescue to avoid a dangerous default,” said Jeffries, D-N.Y.

“What does that say about this extreme MAGA Republican majority?” he said about the party aligned with Donald Trump’s ”Make America Great Again” political movement.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the spending restrictions in the package would reduce deficits by $1.5 trillion over the decade, a top goal for the Republicans trying to curb the debt load.

In a surprise that complicated Republicans’ support, however, the CBO said their drive to impose work requirements on older Americans receiving food stamps would end up boosting spending by $2.1 billion over the time period. That’s because the final deal exempts veterans and homeless people, expanding the food stamp rolls by 78,000 people monthly, the CBO said.

Liberal discontent, though, ran strong as Democrats also broke away, decrying the new work requirements for older Americans, those 50-54, in the food aid program.

Some Democrats were also incensed that the White House negotiated into the deal changes to the landmark National Environmental Policy Act and approval of the controversial Mountain Valley Pipeline natural gas project. The energy development is important to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., but many others oppose it as unhelpful in fighting climate change.

On Wall Street, stock prices were down.

In the Senate, Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell are working for passage by week’s end.

Schumer warned there is ”no room for error.”

Senators, who have remained largely on the sidelines during much of the negotiations, are insisting on amendments to reshape the package. But making any changes at this stage seemed unlikely with so little time to spare before Monday’s deadline.

___

Associated Press White House Correspondent Zeke Miller and writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

Picture of Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick is the News & Public Affairs Director at Illinois Public Media. He oversees daily newscasts and online stories. He also manages The 21st Show, a live, weekday talk show that airs on 7 NPR stations throughout Illinois. He is the executive producer of IPM's annual environmental TV special "State of Change." And he is the co-creator of Illinois Soul, IPM's Black-focused audio service that launched in February 2024. Before arriving at IPM in 2019, he served as News Director at WKAR in East Lansing and spent 17 years as a TV news producer and manager at KXAS, the NBC-owned station in Dallas/Fort Worth. Reginald is the recipient of three Edward R. Murrow regional awards, seven regional Emmy awards, and multiple honors from the National Association of Black Journalists. Born in Vietnam, Reginald grew up in Colorado and is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. Email: rh14@illinois.edu Twitter: @RNewsWILL

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