The U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure Monday to raise the country's debt limit and cut spending.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., voted for the measure, which passed 269-161.

House Republicans supported the bill 164-66, while House Democrats split evenly with 95 for and 95 against.

The bill includes an estimated $2.1 trillion in cuts over 10 years while raising the debt ceiling by that same amount in several stages. It also sets up a bipartisan committee that must recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. If Congress doesn't accept the committee's recommendations it must make its own deficit cuts by the end of the year.

The legislation would immediately raise the debt ceiling, now at $14.3 trillion, by more than $900 billion in return for capping discretionary spending and reducing budget deficits by $917 billion over 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Discretionary spending includes everything other than entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

It also would set up a 12-member committee of three Republicans and three Democrats from both the House and Senate to recommend additional deficit cuts over 10 years. These could include tax increases and entitlement programs. If the reductions are approved, the debt ceiling would be increased by the same amount.

The deal also calls for a vote on a balanced budget amendment. Tea party conservatives had wanted a debt ceiling increase to be contingent on passage of the amendment in both the House and the Senate.

Liberals and tea party conservatives rejected the controversial package that could lead to deep spending cuts to a host of agencies, including the Defense Department.

Many economists and government officials warned by defaulting on its obligations, the nation would roil global financial markets and lead to a downgrading of the country's stellar bond rating, a move that would increase interest payments the government must make.

Noem said the bill wasn't ideal but had to be done.

"I don't think anybody is thrilled with the bill that's in front of us," said Noem, who said it doesn't cut spending enough.

But with the federal government on the verge of running out of money, Noem said, something had to pass.

It "would be very detrimental if we didn't find a way to get past this Aug. 2 deadline," she said.

And despite her misgivings, Noem said she likes the spending cuts in the bill.

Most Republicans touted the plan as a victory of sorts, considering that while they run the House, Democrats control the Senate and the White House. Noem credited the large group of freshmen, she among them, who arrived in Washington in January on a mission to shrink the size of government.

"What would we be talking about now if we didn't have these 87 Republicans that came out here this year? We'd be talking about another stimulus package. We'd be talking about how much we're going to raises taxes. We'd be talking about things that would drive us into the ground," Noem said. "We've stopped that conversation. We've turned it around and we're going to have a vote on the balanced budget amendment. I think that's huge."

The bill now moves to the U.S. Senate, where Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., supports the bill.

"I frankly would not have done it this way, but I think for the most part, it's a good compromise," Johnson said.

It's expected to pass in the Senate, with Johnson predicting it could collect as many as 75 votes.

Johnson isn't a big fan of the committee set up by the bill that must recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. He views that as something Congress should do, not pass off to a committee.

But Johnson said he is confident the triggered spending cuts will force Congress to act.

"It cuts deeply into defense and entitlements -- so deeply, in fact, that I doubt it ever occurs," Johnson said.

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Republican Sen. John Thune is still reviewing the details of the plan but has concerns about the triggered spending cuts, spokesman Andi Fouberg said in an email late Monday afternoon.

The bill does not include a plan Thune helped broker which would provide more than $1 billion in debt reduction this year by abruptly ending a tax credit provided to corn-based ethanol blenders. The deal would have steered a portion of the savings from ending the credit for other smaller, targeted tax breaks to promote biofuels.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is also still reviewing how the cuts will impact South Dakota, his spokesman, Tony Venhuizen said.

But Daugaard praised Congress for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

"I'm glad they were able to come to a deal on the debt ceiling," Daugaard said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that these deals emerge at the last minute because it creates great uncertainty for state governments."

Shad Olson, a tea party activist and radio host from Rapid City, said it was a deflating outcome because it doesn't prevent the country from sliding further into debt during the next decade.

"I think that they've been sold essentially a bill of goods," Olson said of the House Republicans. "I don't know which is more disturbing: the fact that a debt plan is arrived at that no one likes and does nothing, or the fact that there are some people who are inside the process who seem to think it's a victory for America."

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader contributed to this report

Contact David Montgomery at 394-8329 or



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