The U.S. Senate voted Thursday to raise the nation's debt ceiling beyond its current $20 trillion limit, but Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a Republican, was among the 17 senators who voted against the measure.
“For many years now, Washington, D.C. has abdicated its responsibility to rein in our soaring national debt, instead repeatedly voting on short-term fixes and increasing the debt limit without making substantive, serious changes to the way Washington spends money," Moran said in a statement issued after the vote.
"This pattern is a threat to our economic health, job creation and the ability of the next generation of Americans to pursue bright futures," he said. "To couple this kind of short-sighted punt with disaster relief funding is Washington at its worst."
Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts, also a Republican, voted in favor of the measure, which passed by a vote of 80-17.
The bill now heads back to the House, which is expected to act quickly. Second District Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, a Topeka Republican whose district includes Lawrence, has also expressed skepticism about raising the debt limit without spending reform.
The debt ceiling measure was required in order to prevent the United States from defaulting on its current debt. The measure was coupled with a bill that continues funding the federal government through Dec. 8, preventing a partial shutdown on Oct. 1 and providing just more than $15 billion in disaster relief.
All three of those measures ranked high on Congress’ priority list as the House and Senate came back into session this week following their August recess. The bundling of those issues was the result of a deal President Donald Trump struck Wednesday with congressional Democrats, a deal that reportedly shocked many Republicans.
Oct. 1 marks the start of a new federal fiscal year, and Congress still needs to pass spending bills to fund federal agencies. Later in October, though, the nation was expected to hit its current debt limit of $20 trillion, and many experts have said failure to raise the debt ceiling would have brought on far more serious consequences.
In one widely quoted report in August, Beth Ann Bovino, U.S. chief economist at S&P; Global Rating, said failure to raise the debt limit would have a bigger impact than the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, an event that helped plunge the country into the Great Recession.
The size of the disaster relief package was roughly double what the Trump administration had initially asked for in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which battered Houston and the Gulf Coast of Texas last week. But it also includes money to beef up the Federal Emergency Management Agency as it prepares to deal with an even larger storm, Hurricane Irma, which is currently in the Caribbean and headed toward Florida.
“I support providing relief for those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated many parts of Texas, and to providing financial resources as millions of Americans in the Southeast prepare for Hurricane Irma," Moran said in his statement.
"It is unfortunate that we were unable to demonstrate our support for the suffering Americans on our Gulf Coast due to the addition of the continuing resolution and approaching debt limit,” he said.