Jan Schakowsky, Evanston’s progressive Congresswoman, voted “No” on Aug. 1 on a bill to raise the country’s debt ceiling and cut discretionary domestic federal spending to 1950s levels, while not providing for an increase in tax revenues. The bill passed the House 269-161 and the Senate. Both Illinois Senators, Mark Kirk (R) and Richard Durbin (D), voted in favor of the bill.

On Sunday, before the vote, Sen. Durbin said, “So here we are on the horns of a dilemma … In order to avoid the disaster that would occur Aug. 2 if the United States defaulted for the first time in its history, we are being told we have to cut back on government spending, and by cutting back on spending, we may also have a negative impact on our economy.”

In a statement on his website, Sen. Durbin said the agreement increased the debt ceiling and thus “prevents a default on our nation’s debt and will give our economy the certainty it needs as it continues to recover from a historic recession.

“This deal is not perfect, nor the deal many of us would have made ourselves, but in the end and after weeks of partisan differences, both sides have come together and compromised to avoid an economic catastrophe. This agreement will begin the process of reducing our deficits and ensuring our long-term recovery. But over the next weeks and months, we must do all that we can to make certain that a balanced and fair process follows that protects the most vulnerable in our society.”

Sen. Kirk said he would vote for the bill because, “without this legislation, we would certainly lose our AAA credit rating; interest rates on your credit card, on your mortgage, on your small business all would rise, tipping our county into a recession. This is a bipartisan victory for both parties in which neither party gained decisive advantage but the American people won.”

Sen. Kirk said he felt the best aspect of the compromise is the ironclad spending reductions “which, I think, will give us respect in the markets and among economic analysts so interest rates will remain low and we will prevent any danger of a second recession.”

Rep. Schakowsky was joined by 94 other Democrats who voted against the bill. In voting “No,” Rep. Schakowsky said she was representing her constituents. In a statement released on Aug. 1 she said, “It is clear where my district stands. Hundreds of constituents called my office today – 20 to 1 opposed to this bill.”

Rep. Schakowsky criticized Republican members of Congress, ” led by radical Tea Party members” who “have held hostage the full faith and credit of the United States, refusing to pay America’s bills until they could force huge spending cuts.

“Their mission has been to eviscerate everything from Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security to the Clean Water and Clean Air Acts. Republicans intentionally created a crisis in order to get their way.

“This is the wrong medicine for a sick economy. This bill could increase unemployment, slow economic growth and deepen already historic income inequality.

“Looking ahead, Congress must focus on the immediate crises: a disappearing American dream crisis, a jobs crisis, a foreclosure crisis, and an income inequality crisis.

“The fight is not over after this vote. I will work to make sure that job creation is our number one priority, that the wealthiest Americans pay their share and that our seniors are protected from harmful benefit cuts.”

Last week, as frenzy over the debt ceiling infected nearly every part of the country, 40 mayors in Illinois, including Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, signed a letter to President Barack Obama and members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation urging them to overcome partisanship and address the debt ceiling immediately.

That letter says in part: “We rely on federal programs such as the Community Development Block Grant, Community Oriented Policing Programs, and Federal Transportation subsidies to help provide much-needed services. Our seniors rely on Social Security to make ends meet. As we listen to the discussion in Washington surrounding the debt-ceiling crisis, we fear that all of this is in jeopardy. … [W]e simply cannot handle another recession. …We cannot emphasize more how great the impact is for our cities and our state if you cannot come up with a solution.”

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...