California Lawmakers Split on Debt Bill

By Conan Nolan and Bill French
|  Monday, Aug 1, 2011  |  Updated 5:57 PM PDT
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Like everyone else in Congress, California lawmakers were split on the debt limit vote. Neither end of the political spectrum was happy, making for what centrists consider a good compromise.

Conan Nolan

Like everyone else in Congress, California lawmakers were split on the debt limit vote. Neither end of the political spectrum was happy, making for what centrists consider a good compromise.

If you want to understand how widely divided California lawmakers were about Monday's 269-161 House vote to lift the federal borrowing limit, you need go no farther than Oakland's Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee and Republican Rep. David Dreier of San Dimas.

To Lee, the compromise was a disgraceful abandonment of Democratic Party principles, and a shakedown perpetrated by Tea Party extremists.

"This debt ceiling bill does nothing to address the real crisis in our country," said Lee on the House floor, "the lack of jobs and economic growth."

She was one of 20 California Democrats who voted "no."

But the way Dreier saw it, the compromise did nothing to cut wasteful programs that are draining federal coffers, year after year.

"We're not going to continue increasing the debt without getting to the root cause of the problem," promised Dreier.

He voted "yes" anyway, along with 15 other California Republicans.

Because of the complicated mechanism that puts off a lot of hard budgetary decisions until after next year's election, many of the same issues will be revisited in the months ahead. 

But if there's anything that lawmakers seemed to agree on, it's that the mechanism is now in place to force legislators to deal with the cold,  hard fact that there's not enough tax dollars to do what the federal government has been doing for years. And Washington's dependence on borrowing has to be curbed.

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