Tennessee’s two U.S. senators both voted on Saturday against raising the nation’s debt limit for 14 months, and Congress remained at an impasse over reopening the government and preventing the nation’s first default on its debt.
“The bill we considered today would have raised the debt ceiling for more than a year without implementing the spending restraints Congress needs to force us to deal with our fiscal issues, so I couldn’t support it,” Sen. Bob Corker said in a statement Saturday. “I’m optimistic that bipartisan discussions in the Senate will eventually produce a solution that reopens the government and strengthens our country fiscally.”
“I voted against a 14-month increase of the debt limit that took no steps to reduce out-of-control mandatory spending,” Sen. Lamar Alexander said.
Alexander and Corker are both Tennessee Republicans.
The Associated Press reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, failed to agree on a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing authority above the $16.7 trillion debt limit or reopen the government, now shuttered for two weeks. Congress is racing the clock with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew warning that the U.S. will quickly exhaust its ability to pay the bills on Thursday, the AP said.
There had appeared to be some hope of a deal between Democrats and Republicans heading into the weekend, but so far the discussions appear to have been fruitless.
“There was some movement a couple of days ago,” Corker said on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. “Things are not moving now. The last 24 hours have not been good.”
In his Saturday statement, Alexander had advocated for a short-term funding bill that would reopen the government and raise the debt limit until early next year.
“Congress should use that time to explore options to reduce the growth of mandatory spending and use some of those savings to reduce the effect of the sequester on the military and other important discretionary spending programs,” Alexander said.
The federal government partially shut down on Oct. 1, the start of the new fiscal year, when Congress failed to pass a spending bill. In Oak Ridge, many federal and contractor employees are preparing for possible furloughs because of the shutdown, and a few local businesses have reported that they’re already feeling the impact of reduced spending.
Republicans in Congress had initially wanted to tie a spending bill to a one-year delay in the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” and a repeal of the medical device tax. Meanwhile, congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama had pushed for a “clean” spending bill that made no changes to the health care law.
But the debate has evolved since then, with the focus now on spending, and how long a stopgap measure that would reopen the government should last. Democrats want the across-the-board cuts known as sequestration to last only through mid-November, but Republicans want them to last as long as possible, The New York Times reported.
On Fox News Sunday, Corker said Republicans “started off in a place that was an overreach” but now Democrats are close to doing the same.
The standoff is having an impact across the globe, Corker said.
“This is something that is wreaking havoc around the world and will affect economic growth,” he said. “I do think we will rise to the occasion.”
But, Corker said, “It’s not clear to me how this ends.”