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Delegation Divided Over Debt Bill

WASHINGTON — A last-ditch effort to raise the nation’s debt limit deeply divided New Mexico’s congressional delegation Monday with one Democrat and a Republican opposing the bill for different reasons while three other Democrats grudgingly voiced support.

In the House, Reps. Ben Ray Luján, a Democrat, and Steve Pearce, a Republican, each voted no on the debt-limit deal Monday night. Rep. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., the third member of the state’s House delegation, voted in favor of the bill.

The Senate is expected to vote today. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Tom Udall, both Democrats, told the Journal on Monday they intend to support the bill.

Luján said the legislation puts an unfair burden on middle class and poor people.

“It’s unfortunate that a middle class that’s hurting and that is having a hard time making ends meet are being asked to take on the brunt of this when billionaires, especially, aren’t putting anything on the table,” Luján told the Journal. “I just think that’s a very dangerous place to be taking our country.”

Pearce said he voted no because the “down payment” that the legislation would make on the national debt “isn’t enough.”

“Job creation, not temporary cuts, will be the key to truly solving our national debt problem,” he said. “We need to reform the burdensome taxes and unnecessary regulations that are preventing small businesses across America from creating the jobs we need.”

Bingaman, Udall and Heinrich all said the urgency of the debt-ceiling issue swayed them to support the bill, even though each of them said they disliked the overall content of the legislation. The U.S. will begin to default on its debt starting today if the ceiling isn’t lifted, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has said.

“I had a choice between default and a very flawed piece of legislation,” Heinrich said. “While the tea party (a group of conservative Republicans who opposed the bill) was willing to risk the entire economy to meet their political ends, I wasn’t willing to risk our economy.”

“The key here is we’re facing default, we’re in the closing hours and we need to deal with that,” Udall said. “It’s important to New Mexico and the people of New Mexico who depend on their Social Security checks, Medicare benefits and things like that.”

“There are lots of strong arguments against this package, but the strong argument for it is that it allows the country to honor its financial obligations,” Bingaman said.

Bingaman and Udall, as well as Heinrich and Lujan, have long advocated for the repeal of personal income tax cuts for families making $250,000 per year or more. All four lawmakers would have preferred to see those taxes repealed as part of the debt-ceiling package.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal