Matheson, Chaffetz agree in debt vote

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 5:17 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Whether Congress will agree on a compromise on raising the debt-ceiling by next week remains unknown, despite the House's approval of a Republican-backed plan Friday.

Only one member of Utah's congressional delegation--Rep. Rob Bishop--supported the plan pushed by House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio. Both Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Rep. Jim Matheson, despite broad ideological differences, opposed the debt limit plan for essentially the same reason: it's a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

"I want a solution, not a deal," Chaffetz said. "We've got to solve this problem."

Because Matheson wasn't invited to Boehner's GOP-only powwows on Friday, and without any committee or constituent meetings for him to attend, the six-term Congressman found himself playing the waiting game Friday. Each time a new version of Boehner's bill emerged, Matheson read through it and compared it to previous iterations. But because he predicts the real bipartisan heavy lifting will happen early next week, Matheson didn't much mind spending Friday on the sidelines.

"The (Boehner) bill is dead on arrival in the Senate, and everybody in this town knows that," Matheson said. "The ultimate bipartisan compromise deal, which is what I think most of America is looking for, is going to be developed in the Senate and then come back to the House in the next few days. That's the path forward that's probably going to take place."

In the upper chamber of Congress, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, both said that they would only support legislation that includes a balanced budget amendment, immediate spending cuts and long-term spending caps.

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, Hatch wrote to the Financial Stability Oversight Council on Wednesday asking for details about how much money the Treasury Department has to stave off default and what contingency plans Treasury has in place in case Congress fails to raise the debt limit before Aug. 2. That information that would reveal if and when the federal government might stop sending out Social Security checks next week.

When Hatch's request wasn't fulfilled before the end of business on Thursday, he took to the Senate floor Thursday night and again Friday to express his dissatisfaction.

"We're continuing to pressure the oversight council," Hatch press secretary Matthew Harakal said. "That's where a lot of our focus is. We need to understand what their contingency plan is, and that's one of Sen. Hatch's main goals right now, is to get these answers from the administration. Frankly, it's very disturbing that they haven't gotten back to (Hatch)."

After holding a tea party rally Wednesday on Capitol Hill along with Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Lee maintained a relatively low profile Friday due to meetings with his staff and Senate colleagues.

EMAIL: jaskar@desnews.com

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