June 2, 2023

Debt crisis averted: NM delegation responds to debt ceiling deal

Bill Moree

The U.S. Capitol building, in 2022.

The debt ceiling saga neared its end this week after both the U.S. House and Senate approved a deal to raise the debt limit, with provisions.

The U.S. The Senate voted Thursday night 63-36  to pass a bipartisan bill reflecting a deal made between President Joe Biden and House Republican leadership.

The U.S. The House of Representatives voted 314-117 to approve the deal on Wednesday.

The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 suspends the federal debt limit through January 1, 2025 and adds new discretionary spending limits for FY24 and FY25.

Members of the New Mexico congressional delegation released statements about the bill and their votes. All but one member of the delegation voted for the bill.

U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury was the lone member of New Mexico’s delegation to vote against the package.

“House Republicans put our nation in an unconscionable position: gut the programs our communities depend on—or face a catastrophic default,” Stansbury said in a statement. “In the process, they took the American people hostage, threatening Social Security, Medicaid, disability and veterans benefits. While President Biden heroically steered our country away from the brink of disaster, the GOP secured a deal that will cut vital programs and hurt American families.”

Stansbury referred to the bill as a “ransom note” and said the deal would “undermine food security for thousands of Americans and weaken our bedrock environmental laws.”

Thursday night, both New Mexico Senators voted for the Fiscal Responsibility Act including Joint Economic Committee Chairman Martin Heinrich.

“Members of Congress are elected to serve the people of the United States. Making sure this country pays its bills is the bare minimum we can do. There are things in this deal that I don’t like, but that’s the reality of divided government. We can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the possible—especially when our entire economy is on the line,” Heinrich said.

More:Governor, Senators respond to congressional debt ceiling fight

Sen. Ben Ray Luján also released a statement about his vote for the bill noting the compromises made to keep the U.S. from breaching the debt ceiling.

“This bipartisan agreement is far from perfect, but it takes an unprecedented debt default off the table that would have wreaked havoc on the economy and slashed millions of American jobs. The Biden administration and Congressional Democrats successfully rejected the worst of Republican-led cuts and protected key investments for our economy,” Luján said in a statement Friday. “Upholding our Constitutional authority and avoiding a debt default should never be used to score political points – it undermines our credibility and endangers Americans’ livelihoods. A default would mean the benefits Americans rely on would suddenly be in jeopardy – like Social Security, Veterans benefits, and military pay.

 More:The debt ceiling debate and what it means to New Mexicans

Luján also said that he supported eliminating the need to raise the debt limit in the future.

The bill includes several controversial provisions such as rescinding unused COVID-19 funds and cutting funding to the Internal Revenue Service, expanding work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as SNAP, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, also known as TANF, ending the federal student loan payment suspension and expediting the permitting processes for some energy projects including a proposed pipeline.

Other provisions include providing funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs Cost of War Toxic Exposure Fund, provide funding for the Commerce Department’s Nonrecurring Expenses Fund and to “provide statutory authority through 2024 for the requirement for agencies that propose certain administrative actions that will increase direct spending to also propose at least one administrative action that will decrease direct spending by at least the same amount (commonly known as administrative pay-as-you-go rules),” the bill’s summary states.

The bill goes to President Joe Biden’s desk for his approval..

Debt deal

Biden, congressional leadership and their staff worked for the last two weeks on a deal to extend the debt limit without as provisions as a previously passed House bill.

Both Republicans and Democrats said on multiple occasions that a debt default would be avoided.

The deal included some of the House bill provisions which left some Democrats unhappy as they wanted a “clean” debt ceiling bill that only raised the debt ceiling with minimal  or no additions.

Biden issued a statement following the Senate vote Thursday night.

“Tonight, Senators from both parties voted to protect the hard-earned economic progress we have made and prevent a first-ever default by the United States. Together, they demonstrated once more that America is a nation that pays its bills and meets its obligations—and always will be,” Biden said. “No one gets everything they want in a negotiation, but make no mistake: this bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people… Our work is far from finished, but this agreement is a critical step forward, and a reminder of what’s possible when we act in the best interests of our country. I look forward to signing this bill into law as soon as possible and addressing the American people directly tomorrow.”

Biden is expected to deliver remarks about the bill’s passage Friday night at 5 p.m. mountain time.