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Stefanik votes against bill to raise debt ceiling, keep government open

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:00 AM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WWNY) - North country congresswoman Elise Stefanik opposes a bill that would raise the federal debt limit and keep the federal government open.

Stefanik voted against the bill Tuesday night, when it passed the House of Representatives.

In a statement, Stefanik blamed Democrats.

“House Democrats’ funding crisis is of their own making, but they still want Congress to write them a blank check and raise the debt ceiling to pay for their $3.5 million Socialist wish list,” she said in the statement.

Stefanik, now the third highest ranked Republican in the House of Representatives leadership, was one of 211 Republicans to vote against government funding and lifting the debt limit. Not a single Republican voted for it, but it passed the House anyway, with 220 votes from Democrats.

Republicans in the Senate have vowed to block the bill. It’s possible for Democrats to pass the bill without Republican votes in the Senate, but tricky, and the White House and Democratic leadership in the Senate have ruled it out.

At stake - two things, both important, both with bad consequences for millions of Americans including many people in the north country.

If funding for the federal government is not extended, the government will partially shut down starting next Wednesday. While it’s too soon to say exactly who will be affected, and how, without funding many government services will stop at some point after Wednesday.

That said, stand-offs over government funding usually don’t last and usually don’t have all the bad effects predicted.

Much more serious is failure to raise the debt ceiling. If that doesn’t happen, at some point in October the U.S. risks defaulting on its accumulated debt load.

Importantly, that’s money already spent, including the trillions former President Trump added to the debt during his term in office.

“These were obligations that primarily were accrued during the Trump administration,” said Jack McGuire, Associate Professor of Politics at SUNY Potsdam.

“The hypocrisy is, when we had a Republican president, people like Elise Stefanik, in fact she voted to increase the debt limit during during the Trump administration,” McGuire said.

The Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to fund the government since the last debt limit suspension expired July 31, and projects that at some point next month will run out cash reserves. Then, it will have to rely on incoming receipts to pay its obligations, now at $28.4 trillion. That could force the Treasury to delay or miss payments, a devastating situation.

“If we fail to increase our borrowing limit, it could have catastrophic effects - and that’s the defaulting on the debts and the obligations,” McGuire said.

In a report being circulated by Democrats, Moody’s Analytics warned that a potential downturn from government funding cutbacks would cost 6 million jobs and stock market losses would wipe out $15 trillion of household wealth.

So why are Republicans refusing to raise the debt limit, even though they - including Stefanik - agree it must be raised? It’s their way of protesting Democrat plans to spend $4.5 trillion more on infrastructure and social programs.

Stefanik was one of more than a hundred Republican members of the House to sign a letter promising not to increase the debt ceiling.

“Because Democrats are responsible for the spending, they need to take responsibility for the debt ceiling,” according to the letter signed by Stefanik.

Stefanik’s vote drew fire from Democrats challenging her in the 2022 race for the north country’s seat in Congress.

“As usual, Elise Stefanik is playing partisan politics,” said Matt Putorti, one of the challengers.

“But, this time, she is using the full faith and credit of the United States to play a political tug of war with our economy.”

Another challenger, Bridie Farrell, said in a statement “It’s sad that Elise Stefanik is so unrelenting in putting politics ahead of country, which is exactly why I am running to provide an independent voice for our communities in Washington.”

Criticism from Democrats is likely welcomed by the Stefanik camp, given the heavy Republican lean of the district.

“It (voting no on raising the debt limit) plays well with the voters, and so people like Representative Stefanik, it doesn’t hurt her in her ambitions to get re-elected,” McGuire said.

Former President Trump endorsed the Republican hard line Wednesday. In a statement, he said “The only powerful tool that Republicans have to negotiate with is the Debt Ceiling, and they would be both foolish and unpatriotic not to use it now.”

7 News reached out to Stefanik for additional comment Wednesday. Through a spokeswoman, she declined an interview, but issued a second statement.

“Democrats Far-Left Socialist spending is reaching into the pockets of nearly every American, and the American people know exactly who is to blame for why they are paying more for almost everything.

“Now, Nancy Pelosi and the radical liberals in her party want to increase the debt ceiling to pay for it. While Democrats are wasting taxpayer dollars at the expense of our nation’s future, I’m focused on results for New York’s 21st District.”

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