WASHINGTON – Arizona’s congressional delegation voted 7-2 Wednesday to raise the nation’s debt limit, crossing party lines to do so and creating some unusual alliances in the process.
They were part of a 285-144 House vote to approve a bill that would let the government continue to borrow money and pay its debts for the next several months.
The bill would also require that each chamber of Congress adopt a fiscal year 2014 budget by April 15, and calls for salaries of lawmakers to be withheld if their chamber does not meet that deadline.
Support was bipartisan in the full House as well as in the Arizona delegation, where four Democrats and three Republicans voted for the bill and one member of each party voted against.
The “no” votes came from one of the more liberal members of Arizona’s delegation, Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, and one of its more conservative, Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Mesa.
“I’m not really sure I know” how to explain that pairing, said William Dixon, a University of Arizona political science professor.
Grijalva could not be reached for comment on his vote, but Salmon said in a prepared statement that he “could not in good conscience support raising the debt limit without corresponding reductions in spending to offset the increase in borrowing.”
“It’s time we start voting to actually reduce spending and begin the process of balancing the budget,” his statement went on to say.
Arizona delegation members who voted for the bill gave various reasons for their support, but noted that this bill is just one step toward a longer-term budget solution.
Rep. Ron Barber, D-Tucson, said in a prepared statement that it is “irresponsible that Congress hasn’t passed a budget since 2009.”
“Congress must do the right thing and adopt a federal budget,” his statement said. “Without a budget, we cannot have a clear plan to reduce our deficit – something that Arizonans and I both know must be done immediately.”
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff, said the bill will let the country avoid default on its debt while addressing the longer-term budget.
“Part of our duty as members of Congress is to pass a budget,” she said in a prepared statement. “Today’s vote took us a step closer to that and a step further from default on the national debt.”
But Dixon said the section of the bill that threatens congressional salaries might be unconstitutional, since the 27th Amendment prohibits laws on congressional salary from taking effect until the beginning of the next session of Congress.
He said each side has decent arguments why this bill would be legal or why it would not be.
The salary wording was “a sweetener” for Republicans, he said, and Democrats were not going to oppose the debt-ceiling increase.
While Arizona representatives came together on this issue for different reasons, Dixon said he does not see this as a sign of things to come.
“Politics is kind of hard to explain sometimes,” he said. “I think it’s a one-time deal around the debt ceiling. I don’t think you’re going to see this about other kinds of issues.”
How they voted
Members of the House from Arizona crossed party lines in the vote Wednesday for a bill to extend the government borrowing limit:
• Ron Barber, D-Tucson
• Trent Franks, R-Glendale
• Paul Gosar, R-Prescott
• Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Flagstaff
• Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix
• David Schweikert, R-Fountain Hills
• Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix
• Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson
• Matt Salmon, R-Mesa