One day before the government was predicted to default on its obligations, the House passed legislation to raise the national debt limit and avoid an economic crisis.
In a 269-161 vote, lawmakers opted to cut federal spending by $2.1 trillion over the next ten years and immediately raise the debt ceiling by $400 billion. The legislation is expected to be passed in the Senate on Tuesday, and signed by the President.
The bi-partisan passage came with its fair share of opposition from the GOP majority, with 66 Republicans including Reps. Chuck Fleischmann and Scott DesJarlais, the only two Republicans from Tennessee to cast votes against the measure.
Immediately following the vote, Fleischmann said that after carefully reviewing the bill, it did not have the significant budget reforms and long-term solutions necessary to gain his support.
"Unfortunately, the bill that was passed today was so diluted by the Democratic leadership and the president that it did not meet the strict financial constraints as previous legislation that I had supported, such as Cut, Cap and Balance and the Boehner Bill," Fleischmann said. "And more importantly, the grassroots outcry from the district was overwhelming for me to vote 'no,' and I had to do what my constituents said."
Fleischmann said that throughout the day and entire process, he had been in direct communication with residents of the 3rd District, fielding opinions and gauging the stances of his electorate.
In a statement, Rep. Scott DesJarlais echoed Fleischmann's sentiments in his attempt to honor the wishes of voters.
"My constituents sent me to Washington, D.C., to tackle our budget crisis and put America back on the track to fiscal sanity," DesJarlais said. "I hear every day from families in Tennessee's 4th District that they want the federal government to make tough spending choices, just like they have to do at home."
Despite their votes against the measure, both Fleischmann and DesJarlais expressed satisfaction in forcing Washington lawmakers to engage in serious discussions surrounding the issue of fiscal policy.
"While I cannot support this legislation, I think it is important to recognize that we have fundamentally changed the debate in Washington from how much we can spend to how much spending we can cut," DesJarlais said.
Prior to the vote, representatives were surprised by the attendance of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Az., who returned to the House floor for the first time since being shot in the head during a January assassination attempt. Fleischmann described the moment as "a great feeling of elation."
"It was a tremendous, wonderful surprise," he said. "It just shows that the House of Representatives is still a tremendous institution. The warmth and support that was shown, and the joy of Rep. Giffords, was outstanding."
The Budget Control Act Amendment is expected to be taken up by the Senate at noon on Tuesday, where it is expected to pass.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Sen. Bob Corker stated his support of the measure, but was quick to add that it wasn't the deal he would have preferred.
The senator alluded to his bi-partisan, bi-cameral CAP Act legislation, which would have set an across-the-board cap on federal spending, potentially cutting more than $7 trillion out of the deficit.
"With the current administration and the Republican control of only one house of Congress, I believe this is the largest package we can get at this time," Corker said. "In the final analysis, I had to ask myself: do I believe two to four more weeks of negotiating would produce a better deal? The answer is no, and I think the deal could get even worse."
Corker predicted that combating the national deficit and reforming fiscal policy would be "the struggle of this decade" for the country.
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