Utah’s McAdams, Curtis vote against boosting nation’s debt limit; Romney, Lee plan to do so, too

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mitt Romney answers questions at a town hall meeting in the Provo City Hall Council Chambers, Friday, June 21, 2019.

Washington • Utah’s House members split Thursday on a measure that would raise the nation’s credit ceiling as the state’s senators vowed to oppose adding more debt.

The deal, struck among the White House, Senate Republican leaders and House Democrats to boost federal spending limits, passed the House 284-149 and is likely to be voted on in the Senate next week ahead of a six-week congressional recess.

Most Democrats supported the measure — Utah Democrat Rep. Ben McAdams opposed it — as Republicans largely voted against it.

President Donald Trump had urged his GOP colleagues to get behind the bill that would increase funding for the military and domestic programs and suspend the debt ceiling through mid-2021, after the next election cycle.

McAdams and Utah Republican Reps. John Curtis opposed the measure, while GOP Reps. Chris Stewart and Rob Bishop supported it.

“This deal shows that both parties in Congress and the president have completely thrown in the towel on trying to behave in a fiscally responsible manner,” McAdams said. “Overall, the bill would cost about as much as the 2017 tax cuts, bringing discretionary spending close to record levels. Interest payments alone will cost $250 billion, crowding out even further our ability to invest in programs that will strengthen our country. Every hardworking Utah family knows that responsible budgeting is critical for a strong financial future."

The budget deal, which is expected to pass the Senate next week, adds $320 billion in new spending and ends limits placed on the government's credit card through 2021.

The debt ceiling is a consistent briar patch for Congress in that it needs to be raised — the nation’s credit rating is at stake — but no one wants to be blamed for doing so.

Utah's members of Congress had different takes on how it should go.

“I have consistently voted against budgets that fail to address our growing debt crisis, and must do so again today,” Curtis said in a statement Thursday. “This proposal dramatically increases spending, suspends the debt ceiling, and does nothing to offset any budget caps. Representing the youngest district in the country, full of families who strive every day to live within their means, I feel a deep responsibility to ensure that we give stronger consideration to the crippling deficit we are passing along to the next generation.”

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said it was important to pass the bill for the country.

"This two-year budget agreement provides strong funding for our men and women in uniform, excludes Democrat poison-pill riders, ensures taxpayer funds don’t pay for abortions, and excludes Democrats’ prohibition on border wall construction,” Stewart said.

Bishop noted that then-Vice President Gerald Ford told Utah State University in 1974 that compromise is the art of government.

“This budget deal is an example of compromise making government go,” Bishop said. “This deal will continue the crucial task of rebuilding our military after the deleterious years of the prior administration. Today’s move will only bear successful fruit if Democrats live up to their commitments."

The measure now heads to the Senate, where it is expected to pass, though not with support of Utah Sens. Mike Lee or Mitt Romney.

“I promised the people of Utah that I would not participate in adding such an enormous amount to the deficit and debt," Romney said. "So I will not be supporting” the budget deal.

Lee said he can’t back the budget deal because it adds so much spending.

“If we can’t control spending now, when the economy is performing about as well as it possibly can, then when can we? When is it going to be any easier to deal with this problem?” Lee asked. “The way we start making steps in the right direction is to vote against bills, bills, like this one, that do not meaningfully address the problem.”