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Gillibrand, Schumer split on debt limit votes

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WASHINGTON — New York’s Democratic U.S. senators parted ways on the debt limit deal Tuesday, with Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand siding with liberals who focused on the cuts to programs and lack of additional tax revenue to soften the blow.

Mrs. Gillibrand, who has taken a decided turn to the political left since leaving the House for the Senate in 2009, explained her “no” vote in a statement, complaining that the deal was reached behind closed doors and that it reduces the deficit mainly on the backs of middle class families that will see the impact of reduced federal spending.

“I do not believe this proposal is a fair, well thought out, or balanced deal for our fragile economy or the millions of middle-class families struggling to make ends meet,” Mrs. Gillibrand said.

Although Mrs. Gillibrand said she supports raising the debt ceiling — the only way to avert a damaging default by the government — and reducing the deficit, she complained that the agreement fell far short of what Congress could have accomplished.

In voting against the deal, she joined with more liberal Democrats in the Senate and the House. Their “no” votes were easier to cast, knowing that the bill would ultimately prevail.

“The fact is, there is nothing in this deal that will address the significant jobs crisis we are facing,” Mrs. Gillibrand said. “This deal, cut behind closed doors with zero transparency, is an unbalanced approach that cuts deeply into discretionary spending while being overwhelmingly stacked in favor of large corporations who exploit loopholes and the wealthiest among us.”

Mr. Schumer, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, voted for the deal with a caveat: he wants more discussion about raising revenue through taxes, which could help cut the deficit while softening some of the cuts in government programs that are likely to be recommended by a bipartisan committee of lawmakers required by the legislation.

In a statement, Mr. Schumer said, “Of greatest importance is that Democrats and Republicans came together to avoid default. Had we defaulted on our debt we could have risked another recession and thousands more would have lost jobs.”

Echoing some of the complaints from fellow Democrats, Mr. Schumer added, “Unfortunately, our effort to close tax loopholes for corporate jets and yachts and companies that ship jobs overseas did not succeed but we’ll continue to make the case.”

How the cuts that come from the deal will affect New York remains to be seen. Cuts in defense programs should not hurt Fort Drum, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, has said. And the first round of cuts prescribed in the legislation are mainly a way to trim back anticipated increases, rather than cutting deeply from this year’s levels, for instance. And Mr. Schumer noted that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are not targeted for cuts — although such entitlements could become part of the conversation if Congress does not meet the overall reductions outlined in the legislation.

Interest groups on both sides of the debate lost little time Tuesday in staking out their positions. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal think tank, warned that Republicans will try to force equal spending cuts every time the debt ceiling is raised in the future.

“Policymakers who have engaged in recent months in high-stakes hostage-taking — threatening the economy and the full faith and credit of the U.S. government — apparently now feel vindicated, affirmed, and emboldened,” said the CBPP’s executive director, Robert Greenstein, on the group’s website. “The lesson they draw is to threaten default each time Washington must raise the debt ceiling unless their demands for ever deeper budget cuts (with no revenue increases) are met.”

The Log Cabin Republicans, representing gay and lesbian members of the GOP, hinted at a need for more spending cuts to come, saying the deal succeeded in not giving President Barack Obama a “blank check” and requiring cuts to go with the debt-limit increase.

“That goal has been achieved, but nobody should believe that this is more than a stopgap measure. The culture of spending in Washington must fundamentally change going forward,” the group said.

And the National Republican Congressional Committee found a way to blame Mr. Owens for decades of the government spending beyond its means, although the congressman supported the deal with its trillions of dollars in budget cuts.

“Since Owens’ spending addiction forces the government to borrow $4 billion every day, he should listen to worried middle-class families in New York rather than dismiss and disregard them like many of his desperate Democrat colleagues already have,” said the RNCC’s communications director, Paul Lindsay, in a press release that was issued against other Democrats as well.

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