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House passes bill to raise debt limit, cut spending

The House of Representatives passed emergency legislation Monday to raise the federal debt ceiling and cut spending. Rep. Gabby Giffords made her first appearance in Congress since suffering a head wound in a shooting six months ago. She was there to cast her vote in favor of the bill.

August 1, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Emergency legislation to avoid a first-ever government default was passed by the House of Representatives on Monday night, a day before the deadline for action.

The GOP-run House began considering the bill less than a day after the White House and top lawmakers reached agreement to raise the federal debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion and cut federal spending by $2 trillion over the next decade. That's enough to allow the government to pay its bills through the 2012 elections, a point President Barack Obama insisted upon.

The deal also calls for a 12-member congressional committee to find an additional $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Nov. 23. Congress would vote on the measure in late December.

The bill was passed 269-161.

The democratically-controlled Senate is expected to vote on it at 9 a.m. PT Tuesday.

"This process has been messy, it's taken far too long," Obama said. "Nevertheless, ultimately the leaders of both parties have found their way toward compromise."

The dramatic vote was made more memorable by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' first appearance in Congress since suffering a head wound in a shooting six months ago.

Giffords drew a thunderous applause as she walked into the House chamber and cast her vote in favor of the bill.

"The #Capitol looks beautiful and I am honored to be at work tonight," Giffords tweeted.

With a smile on his face, Vice President Joe Biden walked to the House floor and said "I came to see Gabby, that's why I'm here."

Mark Kelly, Giffords' husband, was all smiles as well.

"It feels good," he said as Giffords was on the House floor. "Great, actually."

While not all republicans were onboard with the debt deal, Rep. John Campbell (R-Irvine) had no problem voting for it.

"There is a bipartisan agreement here to start the process of reducing our deficit," he said. "It's not as much as we are going to need to do, frankly. We're going to need to do quite a bit more over the next few years, but I think it's a decent start."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) says it does little to improve the economy.

"I think the key issue right now is, what do we do to get the economy moving again?" Schiff said. "I'm concerned that this will have a supressing impact on the job situation. I would like to have seen revenues in the bill."

Many people in Southern California watched closely when the president made the televised announcement Sunday that a debt deal had been reached. People said they're happy the impasse is over, but aren't happy about how long it took.

"It kind of reminds me of third grade students playing dodge ball," said Gigi Wisconston of Corvallis, Ore. "They're both so much into 'I want my own way' that they're being ridiculous. They're being children. They need to grow up and act like decisive men."

"It's just politics as usual and you know, now we're all supposed to go 'yay, hooray, hoorah,'" said Burbank resident Jim Labriola. "And, I mean, $2 trillion in a decade? What do we owe now, like $8 to $10 trillion? I mean it's just totally ridiculous."

There is concern among Americans that the large federal deficit will be a burden on young people, who will have to pay for government programs in the future. And while some feel the spending cuts don't go far enough, others feel that the deal should have included tax hikes for the rich, which it does not.

"We need to have a general approach, general set of mind, not the individual," said Southern California resident Hamlet Mehrabian. "The rich should not think only for himself, but for the wellbeing of the entire public."

"I don't want to see the country shut down," said resident Dianne Rogers. "I'm glad that we've reached some type of compromise, but I just don't think it's enough of what we need."

For it to go into effect the debt deal still must be approved by both arms of Congress before midnight Tuesday or the government could go into default.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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