WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House of Representatives Wednesday passed a largely symbolic measure condemning a hike in the US debt ceiling as political battles over government finances resumed.
By a vote of 239 to 176, the lawmakers passed the resolution expressing disapproval of the increase in the US borrowing authority, currently set at $15.194 trillion.
Unlike other recent battles over additional borrowing authority, Wednesday’s window dressing-vote does not carry with it the risk of federal default that loomed over the debt-ceiling debate last summer.
The measure would require the backing of the Democratic-run Senate and the signature of the president — neither of which is considered likely.
President Barack Obama on Thursday formally asked Congress to raise the debt limit with just a little more than $100 billion remaining before the national credit card is overdrawn.
But under a budget deal in August, the debt ceiling is automatically boosted to avoid a US government default.
The vote comes as opinion polls show public approval of Congress has dropped to its lowest level in 38 years.
Still, Republicans have seized upon the request as an opportunity to heap new scorn on Obama, whom they decry as an out-of-control spender and say his spending habits are evidence he must be voted out of office in November’s presidential election.
Wednesday’s votes are expected to be the last on the debt ceiling until after the elections, but are unlikely to silence the president’s critics, who have seized upon his handling of a crippling recession and the tepid US recovery as central themes in the current election campaigns.
Congress, during the last round of negotiations with the White House, agreed to raise what at the time was a $14.3 trillion debt limit by more than $2 trillion in exchange for equivalent spending cuts in the federal budget.
Obama planned to request the higher debt limit in three separate increments. The current request is his final one.
The action comes with Obama and Republicans still deadlocked over measures to curb the massive budget deficit, and the possibility of automatic budget cuts looming under last year’s budget deal.
Obama, in an interview with Time magazine released Wednesday, said the reason there was no deal on budget cuts was “because the Republicans were unwilling to do anything on revenue… Zero. Zip. Nada.”
“There’s no equivalence between Democratic and Republican positions when it comes to deficit reduction. If we can get any Republicans to show any serious commitment, not vague commitments… we’ll be able to reduce our deficit.”