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Alaska's congressional delegation votes in favor of bill aimed at avoiding government default

Posted: August 2, 2011 - 9:17pm

JUNEAU — Alaska’s congressional delegation voted for the legislation intended to head off a first-ever default by the federal government, but the support was tepid, at best, from the Republican members.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young each called the measure, which was signed by the president Tuesday, the best deal that they were going to get leading to the deadline for raising the debt ceiling or facing a possible government default.

Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, was more enthusiastic, saying that while the bill isn’t perfect, it found a “long-term solution that clears this cloud of uncertainty over our economy and the lives of everyday Americans.”

“Today’s progress protects Alaska families and small businesses from the catastrophic impacts of a government default and puts us back on track for long-term fiscal health and job-creation,” Begich said in a statement.

Tuesday had been identified as the day by which the government would have exhausted its ability to borrow money and pay its bills. The at-times bitter debate over raising the debt limit raged in Washington for weeks leading to Tuesday’s Senate vote. The House voted Monday.

The measure raises the U.S. debt ceiling through 2012, includes budget cuts and spending caps and establishes a special bipartisan committee charged with drafting legislation to find $1.5 trillion more in deficit cuts for a vote later this year. Panel findings will get an up-or-down vote in Congress.

Murkowski said the calls she’d been getting constituents had boiled down to two words: “Fix it” — something easier said than done.

She said in an interview that pieces of the final measure had been floating around and in the end, the various parties — from the White House to congressional leaders and members of the tea party movement — got a bit of what they wanted.

She said she believes Congress had a responsibility to address the issue in a more timely matter than it did. However, she said, the country won because it avoided default and took the first step toward reducing spending and the nation’s deficit.

She also said the vote was the easy part and that a difficult process lies ahead as the committee gets to work. “This will not be easy, but it will be necessary,” she said.

Rep. Don Young, who’s repeatedly said the country can’t cut its way into prosperity and must grow its revenue base, is “fairly confident” that Congress, heading into an election year, will seriously approach the issue of getting the economy on a more stable track, his spokeswoman, Meredith Kenny said.

“The key is cutting burdensome regulations so that we can start producing again,” Kenny said. That’s a sentiment echoed by Murkowski, who believes regulatory changes can aid in economic certainty and job creation.

Begich said he remains committed to “reforming our oversized tax code and ending special tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires.”

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