Hatch and Lee defend their vote on debt ceiling plan

2011-08-03T00:30:00Z 2011-08-05T10:16:30Z Hatch and Lee defend their vote on debt ceiling planBilly Hesterman - Daily Herald Daily Herald
August 03, 2011 12:30 am  • 

Utah Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee defended their 'no' votes on the debt ceiling compromise on Tuesday, saying it didn't do enough to solve the spending problems in Washington.

The two senators opposed the bipartisan plan -- crafted by congressional leaders and President Barack Obama -- that increased the nation's limit on borrowing while requiring cuts to government spending. Both said they were glad the conversation in Washington has turned to how to cut spending but that the plan wasn't what they felt was the best option for the country.

"The only solution to this spending crisis is to cut, cap and balance," said Hatch in a phone call with Utah media members following the vote. "This proposal falls well short of cut, cap and balance."

Hatch called for a plan that cuts the deficit next year and every year thereafter, puts spending caps on the federal budget and called for Congress to pass a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Such a plan was passed by the House of Representatives but was tabled by the Senate.

Lee said the legislation approved Tuesday is flawed in how it cuts spending.

"Although these cuts are large on a long-term basis, on a short-term basis, they are less so. On a short-term basis, within the next year, this proposed legislation to cut about $7 billion out of the fiscal year 2012 discretionary spending budget," Lee said in his speech to the Senate body prior to the vote. "Because we are borrowing about $4 billion of new debt every single day, this amounts to less than .2 percent of a cut."

Later in the day Lee compared the plan to giving a 7-foot ladder to a person who is stuck in a 1,500-foot hole. Lee said the ladder just isn't going to give that person in the hole all that much help and argued the plan has the potential to not help America.

The Utah senators' votes put them in step with Utah's two Republican House members. Both Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, voted against the plan on Monday. But while Utah's Republicans stood strong against the deal, Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, voted in favor of it. Utah Democratic chairman Jim Dabakis praised Matheson for his vote and criticized all of the Republicans in Utah's federal delegation for not supporting the debt ceiling plan.

"The Utah Republican instance on threatening to force our nation to default on its obligations is the height of irresponsibility," said Dabakis in a prepared statement. "It is clear that the Republican delegation from Utah is stuck in a political loop that is prompting them to do what is politically expedient over what is best for the people of Utah."

Hatch said his vote wasn't about politics but about the future of the country. When asked what he would say to those who might not have received a check from the government, if the debt ceiling hadn't been raised, Hatch said his heart would go out to them but that in the long run he did what he felt was best for the country.

"If we don't do it, people aren't going to get their checks in the future," Hatch said. "It is important that we continue to fight to get fiscal spending under control."

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