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Debt ceiling deal splits Vermont's congressional delegation

A woman and two men stand in a line
Lisa Rathke
Associated Press
Becca Balint, left, then a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, stands with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), center, and Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), on Oct. 22, 2022, at a campaign rally in Barre. Balint was elected to the House, and Welch was elected to the Senate.

U.S. Representative Becca Balint voted Wednesday evening in favor of a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

That's after saying she was leaning "no" on the plan earlier this week.

Balint says it's not a great bill — but she didn't want to risk a national credit default. The congresswoman says that would've caused an economic disaster impacting working families in Vermont.

"It was something that I could support because it protected some of the most important legislation that's been passed in the Biden administration," Balint, D-Vt., said in an interview, "and it takes the debt ceiling issue off the table for the next two years so we're not going to have this fight in the midst of a presidential election and that was incredibly important to me."

The plan is now being considered in the Senate.

Sanders: Cannot support bill 'in good conscience'

Sen. Bernie Sanders says he'll vote against a compromise plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling because it will hurt working families across the country.

Sanders, I-Vt., says he strongly disagrees with the many of the priorities that are part of the deal negotiated by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, including new work requirements for older food stamp recipients.

Speaking on the Senate floor, Sanders said he's also upset that the plan doesn't include higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations.

"I cannot in good conscience vote for a bill that takes vital nutrition assistance away from women, infants, children and seniors while refusing to ask billionaires to start paying their fair share of taxes," Sanders said.

Sanders says a better alternative to raising the debt ceiling is for President Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment that Sanders says requires the country to pay its debts.

Welch expects to vote yes

Sen. Peter Welch says the plan negotiated by President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is not the best way to deal with this issue, but under the circumstances, he says it's the only realistic way to avoid a total economic meltdown in this country.

"The alternative is catastrophic," Welch, D-Vt., said in an interview Thursday. "We're not talking about anything that is a slight cut. We're talking about a recession, we're talking about interest rates significantly increasing, we're talking about a threat to all of the programs that are very important to Vermont."

Recently onVermont Edition: Vermont Sen. Peter Welch answers your questions

The plan puts caps on federal discretionary spending over the next two years.

Welch says the country has a firm obligation to pay its bills, and he's disappointed McCarthy is using the debt ceiling issue to limit spending.

The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation in the next few days.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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