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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Democratic congressional candidate Aaron Regunberg broke with his leading rivals on Wednesday, saying he would vote against the pending bill codifying the debt-limit agreement if he were currently in Congress.
A survey by 12 News of the dozen-plus candidates running to replace David Cicilline found Regunberg was one of only two who would have voted no on the deal between President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy if they were currently in the House. The other was political newcomer Mickeda Barnes.
Regunberg noted that the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, is also planning to vote against the bill. “This deal rewards Republican hostage-taking at the expense of working families,” he said in a statement.
“We need Democrats in Congress who will fight tooth and nail to disarm these Republican extremists,” Regunberg added. “That’s why I’m in this race.”
Most other Democrats seeking Cicilline’s seat expressed varying levels of distaste for the bargain Biden struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, but all said they were unwilling to take the risk of torpedoing a measure which will prevent an unprecedented federal default. (Cicilline is expected to vote in favor of the legislation.)
“Playing politics with vital programs like Social Security upon which so many Rhode Islanders rely and threatening to send our country into a recession is unacceptable,” said Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, another top Democratic candidate. “While this bill is not perfect, we cannot let Republican extremists hold our country hostage.”
Former White House staffer Gabe Amo praised “the hard work of President Biden and my former colleagues in the Biden-Harris administration” that went into reaching the agreement, arguing it “would protect our nation’s economy and the benefits we have promised to Rhode Island’s seniors, veterans, and working families.” Amo also criticized Republicans for “political gamesmanship.”
State Sen. Sandra Cano echoed others’ criticisms, but said, “the stakes for the American people are so high that voting yes is the only rational option.” She added, “In a perfect world, we would eliminate the debt ceiling so that this type of brinkmanship could not continue to threaten our livelihood.”
Former state official Nick Autiello described himself as “deeply troubled by elements of this deal,” singling out the bill’s new work requirements for childless adults to qualify for food stamps. He also said Biden should have asserted his authority under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment to ignore the debt limit, which he argued should be repealed altogether.
State Sen. Ana Quezada said, “I know from my experience as a state senator that the first and most important job of the legislature is to keep the government funded, running, and paying its bills on behalf of the people it serves.” Still, she said of the bill’s provisions, “I hate some of it.”
Among the others expressing reluctant support for the bill, Jamestown businessman Don Carlson argued Biden deserves “kudos” for “for snatching a victory from the jaws of defeat,” while former Navy officer Walter Berbrick urged repeal of the debt ceiling. Another candidate, Stephanie Beauté, argued that “the reforms incorporated in the bill are something we can all agree on.”
State Reps. Marvin Abney, Nathan Biah and Steve Casey hadn’t responded to a question about their position on the bill by late afternoon, nor had Providence City Councilor John Goncalves.
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