Roby Comments on Debt Limit Vote

August 1, 2011
Press Release

U.S. Rep. Martha Roby (AL-02), a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, made the following comments today regarding the House of Representative’s vote to increase the statutory limit on the national debt:

“I applaud the efforts of Speaker Boehner, Majority Leader Cantor, Majority Whip McCarthy, and Budget Chairman Ryan over the last month. Every dollar saved under the plan approved tonight is a result of their steadfast advocacy on behalf of the American People. While the final legislation is far from perfect and while many of us would prefer the more fundamental reforms found in the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance Act,’ this compromise cuts a dollar of spending for every new dollar of debt. That is a significant accomplishment given that Democrats—who wanted new taxes and no spending reductions—outnumbered Republicans two to one at the negotiating table.

“During this debate, I voted for two separate proposals that would significantly cut future spending, put our nation on firmer financial footing, and avoid a potentially catastrophic default. Each was killed by Senate Democrats.

“I am pleased that a default has been avoided as a result of the vote tonight. However, I was unable to support this legislation because, after a careful reading of the bill, I fear it could ultimately result in devastating and unjustified cuts to our national security. This bill, unlike previous proposals I supported, has a weak firewall against potentially destructive defense cuts. To be sure, there are savings to be found in the Pentagon’s budget, and I have already voted this year to trim wasteful and unnecessary defense spending. But this bill goes much too far. The legislation would use our defense budget as an insurance policy to guarantee savings in the event that the special joint committee, which this legislation creates, fails to achieve cuts in other areas of the government bureaucracy.

“Of course we lack a crystal ball to know how it will play out, but my best judgment is that the chances the special joint committee will fail are too high to risk our national defense, which is one of few legitimate government functions enumerated in the Constitution. If required, the cuts would be so deep as to affect the readiness of our troops around the world—a risk I am not willing to take. As important as deficit reduction is, what good is it for a country that is unable to adequately defend the freedom and liberty it cherishes? Certainly there are other places in the massive federal bureaucracy that are more deserving of deep cuts.

“I reject the idea that we need not worry about these cuts because Washington will never let them happen. To make that suggestion is to say that the legislation does not actually do what we have said it does.

“In the end, I hope that the special joint committee will find the spending cuts that it is charged to identify, and I look forward to reviewing the product of its work. Our prayer is that the special joint committee members will do their jobs, thereby ensuring that the damaging military cuts that could occur never see the light of day.

“On the broader question of restoring fiscal responsibility, our work has just begun. This has been a long and convoluted process, but the takeaway is simple: in a short period of time, House Republicans have successfully changed the conversation in Washington from ‘how do we spend more’ to ‘how do we spend less.’ Even so, much work remains, and only a sustained, dedicated effort will truly change the spending culture in Washington.”

# # #

NOTE: Congress debated how best to raise the debt limit for many months. Members considered numerous proposals, and the House of Representatives and the Senate each took several votes on the issue. On May 31, Rep. Martha Roby voted against President Obama’s original request for a clean debt increase that would expand the government’s ability to borrow money without placing any restrictions on future spending. She said that any debt limit increase should be accompanied by “significant” spending cuts. On July 22, Roby voted in favor of the “Cut, Cap, and Balance Act,” referring to the “strong” measure as her “preference.” The Democratic Senate rejected the measure. With the debt deadline looming, Roby supported Speaker Boehner’s proposal on July 29, noting that it was “far from perfect” but that it cut a dollar of spending for every dollar of additional debt and included no new taxes. Again, the Senate rejected that measure. On July 28, Roby opposed Sen. Reid’s proposal, which she pointed out included an unacceptable budget gimmick that would not result in real savings. (The Senate also rejected the Reid proposal.) That vote was followed by the events described in the press release above.