Illinois congressmen weigh pros, cons of compromise bill as vote to raise debt ceiling approaches
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote Wednesday on a debt ceiling compromise which would push off the possibility of default for at least another two years and cut federal deficits by around $1.5 trillion over the next decade.
The Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 caps spending for fiscal year 2024 at approximately current levels, with a 1% bump higher in 2025. Among other cost-saving measures, the bill raises the age of work requirements for food stamps from 50 to 54, takes back funding issued to the Internal Revenue Service, recovers unspent pandemic funding from programs like the American Rescue Plan, and ends the current pause on student loan repayments in late August.
First-term Congressman Eric Sorensen, D-Rockford, whose 17th District includes parts of Peoria and Bloomington-Normal, says default is not an option.
“This bill, certainly not perfect, but it does mean that we don't drive our economy off of a cliff,” he said. “Catastrophic default, what that would mean to the real people in our district is palpable.”
Sorensen says he’s concerned default and recession would mean veterans lose access to services and social security payments, and faith in the United States worldwide would be compromised.
Illinois 16th District U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap, agrees on avoiding default.
“From my perspective just fundamentally, we can't default on our debt. All of you would be affected by that,” LaHood said Tuesday at a Eureka Rotary event. “Whether it's your 401k, whether it's your retirement, whether it's your Social Security, you're going to be affected by that. We can't let that happen.”
Both representatives say the compromise bill is the result of a divided government, with a Republican-controlled House and Democrat-controlled Senate.
While Sorensen says it’s a good opportunity to practice working across the aisle, he’s not supportive of every measure in the bill.
“One of the things that's harder to swallow are the work requirements for food security, you know, throughout this process, and I oppose those work requirements,” he said. “For those folks that are in their 50s that are food insecure, we need to make sure that they're taken care of.”
LaHood calls the work requirements on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food benefits a “positive thing.” But he feels the bill may not do enough to curtail government spending.
“Today, we're $32 trillion in debt, and it's frightening to think about where we're headed unless we get this under control,” he said. “What I wanted to see in this compromise bill was more fiscal responsibility, getting our spending under control.”
LaHood also questions the compromise decision to leave government defense spending uncapped.
“Listen, I support our defense. But again, everything should be on the table in terms of how we kept spending,” he said. “And that's not done in this bill.”
As of Tuesday, LaHood said he hadn't yet decided on voting for or against the bill yet. Sorensen says he intends to vote yes on the bill’s current form, pending any amendments.
“What I believe in doing is making sure that we are finding the ways to compromise that we are going to find ways to move forward,” said Sorensen. “And much like it is in my neighborhood in Moline, you know, we're not always going to agree. But we can agree to disagree.”
The House is expected to vote on the compromise bill Wednesday night. An emergency Senate vote could occur later this week or this weekend to meet a June 5 deadline.