Without the mandate of a balanced budget amendment, U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey said he could not go along with a federal debt ceiling agreement that passed the House of Representatives Monday night.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate also passed the plan 74-26, with Georgia Republican Senator and East Cobb resident Johnny Isakson votingwith the majority. Saxby Chambliss was one of 11 GOP senators to vote no.
The agreement barely beats a deadline under which the U.S. government would have defaulted for the first time in history, but members of Congress on both sides of the vote, from both parties and both chambers all agreed it is far from ideal.
Gingrey, a Marietta Republican, was in the minority as the House voted 269-161 in favor a measure that would cut an estimated $1 trillion from the federal budget over the next decade.
But that bill, which creates a 12-member Congressional committee to oversee the plan, was missing what conservatives have called "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation. For Gingrey, that was a non-starter:
"It further concerns me that tax increases could come into play as the newly created commission formulates its proposal and that the Department of Defense could be disproportionately affected by the process of sequestration. While I applaud some aspects of this agreement, I believe that this is the time to amend to our Constitution to finally force Washington to live within its means—and I encourage my colleagues to continue their efforts to advance this principle.”
Gingrey's district includes most of north and west Cobb, Douglas and Paulding counties and the Cartersville area.
Republican Congressman Tom Price of Roswell, whose district includes most of East Cobb as well as Cherokee County, and Democrat David Scott, who represents part of Smyrna and South Cobb, voted with the majority.
Said Price, who like Gingrey is supportive of the conservative Tea Party forces that pushed for spending cuts:
"There are no tax increases. For the first time in 15 years we will have the opportunity to hold Washington accountable by voting on a Balanced Budget Amendment and sending it to the states for ratification. Such an amendment to the Constitution would be the single most powerful tool to ensure that Washington lives within its means."
Scott's party caucus was split 95-95, with many of his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus strongly opposed to the agreement they fear will unfairly disadvantage the elderly, poor and jobless and stall efforts to improve the economy.
But the biggest dramatics of the night drew wild bipartisan applause when Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona unexpectedly arrived on the floor to vote for the agreement.
It was Giffords' first appearance in the chamber since she was shot in the head during a January assassination attempt that killed seven others, including a federal judge.
Price, whose public comments are generally along strong partisan lines, Tweeted the happy moment.
Isakson wanted more spending cuts, but said the agreement is "a first step in the right direction."
Chambliss, part of the bipartisan "Gang of Six" that worked on spending cut proposals in the Senate, said the approved measure "does not address the actual debt:"
"The enforcement provisions that are supposed to lead to decreased spending are simply not strong enough. The bill includes self-imposed spending caps, but does not provide a robust-enough procedure to ensure that those caps are not violated."