Alabama Republicans say Obama better be ready to deal to get more borrowing power
The Obama administration is urging Congress to quickly move to increase the nation's borrowing authority to avoid default, but Alabama's lawmakers say they want meaningful spending cuts or policy concessions first.
Asked if he could vote for a debt limit increase without any spending or policy conditions, Sen. Richard Shelby replied in a statement: “Absolutely not."
"President Obama has already increased America’s debt by nearly $7 trillion and will never do anything to control spending on his own,” said Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.
Like Shelby, Alabama's other senator -- Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile -- has opposed debt ceiling increases in previous votes.
"Sen. Sessions is extremely concerned about our nation’s debt and opposes authorizing increased debt without meaningful reforms to Washington spending levels," a Sessions aide said.
Under current law, the temporary suspension of the debt limit agreed to by lawmakers last year expires Friday. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says the country will not be able to pay its bills by the end of February without an increase from Congress in borrowing authority.
Democrats in Congress have said they will reject anything Republicans add to a clean debt limit increase bill.
But across the Capitol, Republicans in the House have been huddling all week over what conditions to add to a potential debt ceiling package. Some ideas have included tying an increase to approval of the Keystone XL pipeline or getting rid of specific Obamacare provisions.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has struggled to get House Republicans to unify behind a specific strategy.
Behind the scenes, Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, is among lawmakers exploring the idea of restoring recent cuts in the budget made to military retiree cost-of-living adjustments in a potential debt limit package.
"I'm looking for reforms that actually address our debt and deficit problems," Roby said. "We cannot continue to pile on more debt with no plan to get spending under control."
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, is pushing for a balanced budget amendment.
"Excessive spending threatens our economy long into the future and must be addressed," Rogers said. "Along with cutting spending, Congress should debate a balanced budget amendment.”
A spokesman for Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, said the congressman is opposed to a "clean debt ceiling hike."
“Congressman Byrne believes our debt is out of control, and that we have to take action with serious spending reductions in order to address this problem," said Jack Pandol, a spokesman for Byrne.
"He is not considering supporting a clean debt ceiling hike," Pandol said. "He will look to support an approach that makes sense given the gravity of our fiscal situation and the urgent need for action.”
Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, said he is concerned about what could happen to the economy if the country can't pay its bills, but pointed out that Congress has included policy reforms in debt limit agreements before.
"Congressman Bachus does not want the debt limit breached because of the economic ramifications, but believes it is reasonable to negotiate policy reforms as has been done many times in the past," said Tim Johnson, his press secretary. "As always, he will fully evaluate whatever final proposal emerges."
Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, on Thursday also called for spending cuts.
"The debt limit is a function of spending money we do not have," Aderholt said. "We need to continue down the path of getting our financial house in order and that starts with reeling in Obamacare."
But Rep. Terri Sewell, the delegation's lone Democrat, said that -- while Congress should "take deficit reduction seriously and develop ways to reduce our nation’s debt" -- Congress should raise the debt limit now without conditions to avoid default.
"I will support a clean bill – free of policy concessions- to raise our nation’s debt limit," she said. "My Republican colleagues should not force our nation towards another unnecessary crisis by demanding concessions as a prerequisite to pay America’s bills. It is my hope that we take up a clean debt ceiling measure in a timely manner.”
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