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Debt ceiling votes: How NH congressional delegation, GOP candidates voted, stand -- and why

Staff Report
February 13. 2014 5:40PM

New Hampshire's lone Republican on Capitol Hill this week continued her opposition to raising the nation's debt ceiling without conditions, while the three Democrats went along with the Senate and House majorities in backing the "clean" bill.

And the Republican challengers to Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and the state's two U.S. House members were not all in lockstep with their party.

After the previous major debt ceiling vote resulted in a government shutdown that was largely blamed on Republicans, U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, allowed a vote Tuesday on a bill that allowed, with no strings attached, the federal government to raise its debt ceiling and continue to make payments on its more than $17 trillion debt until March 2015.

The House passed the bill, 221-201, with 28 Republicans, including Boehner himself and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., joining 193 Democrats in support, while 199 Republicans and two Democrats voted against it.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted to break a filibuster led by Tea Party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, on a vote of 67-31, with 12 Republicans, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joining 55 Democrats. With passage then assured, a final vote that moved the bill to President Barack Obama's desk was strictly along party lines, 55-43.

Obama will soon sign it.

New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte was a "no" vote in both Senate votes, saying afterward, "Since I ran for office, I've made clear that when we raise the debt limit, Congress owes it to the American people, and especially our children, to address the underlying drivers of our debt."

She said the Wednesday votes "did absolutely nothing to get our fiscal house in order and to address our $17 trillion debt, and that's why I voted against it."

Democrat Shaheen supported the bill, saying it prevented "the type of manufactured crisis that has become all too common in Washington, and it provides our economy with certainty as we continue to rein in our deficits.

"Moving forward we must stay focused on our most pressing priorities," Shaheen said, "creating jobs, growing the economy, and further helping our small businesses expand."

The state's two Democratic U.S. House members also backed the "clean" debt ceiling bill.

"The full faith and credit of the United States of America should never be held hostage," said 1st District Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. "I'm relieved that Speaker Boehner acted in the best interest of our economy and allowed a clean bill to come to the floor."

Second District Rep. Ann Kuster, called it "responsible legislation" that avoided default.

"While I believe that we absolutely must work together to cut wasteful spending in responsible ways, defaulting on our nation's debts would cause irreparable damage to our economy and to New Hampshire's small businesses and families," she said.

Among the Republican challengers to Shaheen:

- Former Sen. Bob Smith, who is running again for the Senate, opposed the bill, saying, "Every year, Congress votes to increase the ability to spend more money and drive the debt higher, but they never lay out a plan to fix the underlying spending problems that are bankrupting our nation.

"Senators who voted to increase the debt ceiling acted irresponsibly and added to the mortgage of our children and grandchildren," said Smith. "Once again when senators had the opportunity to stop the spending and change our irresponsible spending habits, they caved in. It was a sad day."

- Senate candidate Karen Testerman, a veteran conservative activist, opposed it, saying, "It is unconscionable for the policy makers to continue to add to the 'credit card' spending habit by raising the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, Americans are pinching pennies to pay for escalating food, fuel and health care costs while Washington continues to spend like drunken sailors."

- A spokesman for U.S. Senate candidate Jim Rubens could not say how the former state senator would have voted.

"There is not a scenario where Jim would have been dropped into the Senate right before the vote," said the spokesman, James Basbas. "He would have been working on long term solutions for the past five years, rather than working from crisis to crisis like the current Senate is doing."

Rubens on Wednesday issued a statement saying that "every member of Congress should be at work solving the nation's long-term debt and deficit crisis. Pleasant-sounding statements about good intentions are not enough. I have proposed substantial and specific long-term budget solutions. I challenge Jeanne Shaheen to stand before the New Hampshire public and do the same."

Among the Republican House candidates, 1st District hopeful Frank Guinta and 2nd District hopefuls Gary Lambert and Marilinda Garcia opposed the debt ceiling bill, while 1st District candidate Dan Innis supported it.

Former U.S. Rep. Guinta "opposes a clean debt ceiling raise when for the last six years Democrats in Washington have spent recklessly on a trillion dollar stimulus bill and Obamacare and, despite campaign promises, spent no time focusing on cutting waste and eliminating inefficiencies in government," said spokesman Ethan Zorfas.

Former state Sen. Lambert said, "The federal government must cut up its credit card. We can not continue on this current path of borrowing from China, deficit-spending and bigger government. It means higher taxes that hurt economic growth which, in turn, hurts middle-class families the hardest."

State Rep. Garcia said, Our growing national debt threatens the economic stability of our nation. The economy, in order to grow and create new, good-paying jobs, requires confidence in our fiscal sustainability. That is why I oppose any deal that raises the debt ceiling without addressing our spending problem."

But Innis, former dean of the University of New Hampshire business school, said he backed the clean bill because "a debt default would trigger a financial crisis that would do immediate harm to our economy and negatively impact the lives of all Americans. Failing to raise the debt ceiling does nothing to address the two underlying big problems that Washington currently faces -- a failure to cut spending responsibly and a failure of presidential leadership.

Innis said he has released a plan to reform the federal budgeting process in a way "that stops us lurching from one self-inflicted financial crisis to the next by cutting spending and requiring the Secretary of the Treasury to pay interest on the debt first."

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