Three out of four Kansas representatives in the U.S. House voted Friday against a bill to raise the nation's debt ceiling, a measure that was needed to prevent the United States from defaulting on its current debt.
That measure passed the House anyway by a vote of 316-90, sending it to President Donald Trump for his signature. Trump had negotiated the deal with congressional Democrats in a move that reportedly stunned Republican leaders.
The measure was packaged together with a continuing resolution to keep the government operating through early December, averting a partial shutdown when a new fiscal year begins Oct. 1. It also provides $15.25 billion in disaster aid, mainly for areas of Texas that were recently battered by Hurricane Harvey.
The three members from Kansas voting against the bill were 2nd District Rep. Lynn Jenkins, of Topeka, whose district includes Lawrence; 3rd District Rep. Kevin Yoder, of Overland Park; and 4th District Rep. Ron Estes, of Wichita. All are Republicans.
Only 1st District Rep. Roger Marshall, a Great Bend Republican, voted in favor of the measure.
Speaking at a Rotary Club event in Lawrence last month, Jenkins, who is not running for re-election, said she had concerns about passing a debt ceiling bill without first reforming the nation's continuing deficit spending. In a statement Friday, she repeated those concerns.
“Make no mistake, I stand with Texas but I believe this could have been handled differently — one vote on disaster relief and a separate vote on the continuing resolution and debt limit increase that included spending reforms," Jenkins said. "The people of Eastern Kansas elected me to Congress to help lower our national debt, not to keep Washington’s spending on auto-pilot.“
Estes also issued a statement saying he supported the victims of Hurricane Harvey, but not raising the debt ceiling.
“While I was proud to support a relief bill without preconditions in the House, I could not support the Senate version that essentially used the relief bill to bail out Washington politicians who don't want to do the hard work of setting priorities and living within our means," he said. "Congress should respond to this terrible storm, but we can't ignore the approaching fiscal storm. We need to prepare for that storm today, and bring down our debt, not put it off until tomorrow.”
Yoder also issued a statement denouncing what he called the “Trump-Pelosi-Schumer debt limit deal,” referring to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York.
“It’s my hope that in December we can work together to make long-term, meaningful spending reforms and pass the fiscally responsible Appropriations bills our committee has diligently put together throughout this year,” Yoder said. “I strongly believe there are bipartisan compromises that work for the American people, but today’s short-term fix that kicks the can down the road wasn’t one of them.”
The House had earlier passed an $8 billion disaster relief bill. But it was expanded to $15.25 billion in the Senate as Florida began bracing itself for an even larger storm, Hurricane Irma. And in a deal worked out between Democrats and President Trump, that was packaged together with the debt ceiling measure and the continuing spending resolution.
The bill passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday. Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts voted for the bill, but Sen. Jerry Moran voted against.