Republicans Say They're 'Taking Action,' As 'Cut, Cap and Balance' Passes House

By Susan Jones | July 20, 2011 | 5:43 AM EDT

The U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, July 19, 2011, following the delayed vote on the conservative deficit reduction plan known as "Cut, Cap and Balance" that passed 234-190, in the GOP-controlled House. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( - Five Democrats joined 229 Republicans in passing a Cut, Cap and Balance bill that requires spending cuts and cap as well as a Balanced Budget Amendment in exchange for an increase in the nation's debt limit.

Nine Republicans -- including some conservatives -- joined 181 Democrats in voting against the tea-party backed measure, which ultimately passed 234-190. The bill will not get through the Democrat-controlled Senate, but Republicans say it sends a clear message about which party is serious when it comes to budget control:

"While President Obama simply talks tough about cutting spending, House Republicans are taking action," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement issued after the vote on Tuesday night. "‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ is exactly the kind of ‘balanced’ approach the White House has asked for – it provides President Obama with the debt limit increase he’s requested while making real spending cuts now and restraining future government spending and debt that are hurting job growth."

Boehner noted that House Republicans are the "only ones" to pass a "real plan that will create a better environment for private-sector job growth by stopping Washington from spending money it doesn’t have and preventing tax hikes on families and small businesses."

Boehner also repeated that the White House, while giving lip service to unspecified spending cuts, hasn't actually said what it will cut. Nor have Senate Democrats passed a budget in more than two years, the Speaker said. "The President should abandon his veto threat, and urge Senate Democrats to quickly pass the ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ plan to help get our economy back to creating jobs,” he concluded.

While Republicans see the Cut, Cap and Balance Act as a sensible approach to out-of-control government spending, Democrats are branding the measure as "extreme."

One union leader called the legislatiion the "Cut, Cap and Kill Medicare bill." Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, also described the bill as "another scheme to shred the American Safety Net in order to protect tax breaks for the rich."

In a similar vein, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), head of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement condemning the Republicans' "extreme approach" to deficit reduction.

“The ‘Cut, Cap, and Balance’ legislation passed by Republicans today is an irresponsible policy that favors tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of America’s middle class, seniors, the poor and our economy as a whole," Schultz said.

“And while the Republican plan increases the burden on seniors and America's middle class, it doesn’t require one dime of additional sacrifice from millionaires, billionaires, hedge fund managers, corporate jet owners or big oil.  It would rip the safety net out from under seniors, the disabled, students and working families, while protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and corporate special interests."

The DNC chair called the bill "unconscionable and immoral." Schultz said President Obama "has made it clear that he is willing to make sacrifices to get America’s debt and deficit under control." However, when pressed at last week's news conference, Obama would not specificy what spending cuts he would make.

House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) hailed the Cut, Cap and Balance Act as a way to avoid default, restore confidence in the U.S. economy, and create a permanent solution to bring spending under control:

"The American people have a message for their government. It is: ‘Time to quit to spending money we do not have," Hensarling said on the House floor. "It is time to stop borrowing 42 cents on the dollar, much of it from the Chinese, and then sending the bill to our children and grandchildren.’"
Hensarling said the bill would cut spending to at least 2008 levels. "Who thought that government was too small before President Obama came into town?" he asked.

As for the "cap" portion of the bill, Hensarling noted that since World War II, spending has averaged 20 percent of our economy, while under Obama, it’s 25 percent and growing to 40. "Let’s keep it at 20 percent," he said.

And finally, "balance": American families have to balance their budgets, as do small businesses and 49 of the 50 states, Hensarling said. "But no -- our Democrat colleagues said it (the bill) is ‘radical’ -- it is ‘radical’ to balance the budget. What I say is -- if we want jobs, hope, and opportunity, we must cut, cap and balance.”