President Barack Obama signed bills raising the nation’s debt limit and scaling back benefit cuts for U.S. military retirees, taking two issues with economic implications out of the spotlight ahead of November’s elections.
Obama, spending the weekend in California, signed the legislation yesterday without comment.
The increase in the debt limit into March 2015 cleared the House and Senate last week with no conditions attached to it in a victory for Obama. The measure likely delays the need for another increase until mid-2015 because income-tax payments will postpone the date that the government exhausts its borrowing authority.
The partial reversal of cost-of-living adjustments that reduce military pensions comes only two months after lawmakers included the cuts in a budget deal. Veterans groups mounted a public lobbying campaign to undo the changes, and the bill that Congress passed last week meets part of their demands.
Obama traveled to California Feb. 14 and is staying with friends at Sunnylands, the Annenberg retreat in Rancho Mirage. The night he arrived he hosted Jordan’s King Abdullah II at the retreat to discuss the crisis in Syria as the U.S. seeks options to increase pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end violence against civilians and leave power.
Obama’s schedule yesterday included a round of golf.
The final Senate vote on Feb. 12 that sent the debt-ceiling measure to Obama came after Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and a favorite of the small government Tea Party movement, was thwarted in an effort to block the increase through procedural moves. Senate Republican leaders rejected the tactic, and enough party members joined with Democrats, who control the chamber, to allow the debt-limit increase to come up for a vote.
The measure then passed on a party-line vote, with 55 Democrats in favor and 43 Republicans opposed.
The Republican-controlled House had passed the so-called clean debt-limit increase the day before. House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, resisted calls from some in his caucus that the legislation be used to force concessions from Obama on other policy issues.
The House passed the legislation 221-201 mainly due to Democrats, who provided 193 of the “yes” votes. The 28 Republicans supporting the measure included Boehner.
Obama, reacting after the Feb. 12 Senate vote, said that “the full faith and credit of the United States is too important to use as leverage or a tool for extortion.” He also said, in a statement the White House released, that “hopefully, this puts an end to politics by brinkmanship.”