WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate voted Tuesday to pass a bipartisan debt deal but Utah's Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee were among the 26 dissenting votes.
Hatch, currently in his sixth term as senator, had previously pledged to vote against any bill that did not include a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution and said that Tuesday's bill, while a step in the right direction, fell short of his approval.
"I commend the leadership in both the House and the Senate," Hatch said. "They both did a good job of bringing people together, but I couldn't vote for it under these circumstances."
Hatch cited the bill's creation of a bipartisan committee, charged with finding further cuts to the federal budget, as one of his concerns with the bill. Should the committee fail to reach a compromise, large cuts will be sequestered from entitlement programs and the Department of Defense. Hatch said the committee's creation was a "reasonable" solution, but expressed concern for what could be devastating to the defense budget.
Hatch also said he would have liked to see larger cuts to spending, closer to $4 trillion to $6 trillion compared to the $2.1 trillion enacted by the bill, but was pleased that party leaders had succeeded in reducing spending while avoiding tax increases.
"We know that if you increase taxes, the Democrats are just going to spend the money," Hatch said. "They won't use it to pay down the deficit. That's how they kept themselves in power all these years, by spending your money."
Hatch was quick to lay blame on the Democratic Party and President Barack Obama for the current financial situation and the gridlock party leaders encountered while negotiating a debt compromise. He said that in his 35 years in office he has seen primarily one-party spending.
"They got zero help from the Democrats as it was going along and the Democrats want tax increases," Hatch said. "The president has us in $14 and a half trillion in debt, going up every day, and his own budget adds another $13 trillion over the next number of years. We can't live with that and have something left for our children and our grandchildren."
Hatch stressed the need for accountability in Washington and said a balanced budget constitutional amendment was the best way to hold lawmakers accountable. He said that he has been fighting for an amendment during his entire tenure in office, including an unsuccessful attempt in 1997 that came within one vote of passage.
Those fights for a balanced budget amendment, he said, are important whether win or lose in order to bring the issue to the attention of the American people and expose the reckless spending of some in Washington.
"They really don't seem to give a darn about getting things under control," Hatch said. "They just keep spending and then claim that they're doing so much good for the American people when, in fact, they're spending us right into bankruptcy."
He said it will require voters voicing their anger to sway enough Democrats to accomplish a constitutional amendment.
"We have to face up to accountability," he said. "We have to face up to our problems. We can't just keep kicking the can down the road and unfortunately that's what, in many ways, people do."
Sen. Mike Lee also voted against the bill. He declined to release a statement explaining his vote but has stated in the past that he would not support any bill that did not include a balanced budget constitutional amendment.