Describing the House Speaker’s plan and Republican behavior as “irresponsible,” a U.S. senator from Ohio is calling for an end to the bipartisan budget bickering during this pivotal time in history.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown called for Republicans to raise the debt ceiling to keep the United States from defaulting and accept a budget deal to cut the deficit by $2.2 trillion. Congress has until Tuesday to approve raising the debt ceiling to avoid default and a lowering of the nation’s credit rating.
“This week we have a unique opportunity to reduce the deficit to the tune of $2.2 trillion and protect Medicare, and protect Social Security and protect Medicaid,” Brown said Wednesday during a media teleconference. “We can debate the Clinton years, the Bush years, the Obama years, we can do any of that but we can’t debate the absolute given the urgency of this situation — never before or in the lifetime of any of us on this call has the full faith and credit of the United States of America been held hostage to a major budget agreement.”
In the past three decades, the debt limit has been increased 38 times, 34 times under Republican presidents prior to President Barack Obama taking office, Brown said. In the past, members of Congress have voted against raising the debt limit to make a political statement but never have put the vote in jeopardy.
Brown claims Congress has been presented a plan to balance the budget, as they did under previous administrations.
“We can balance the budget as we did under President Clinton with a balance between spending cuts and revenues,” Brown said. “During these 38 times, every single time it was a free-standing vote on the debt limit. We’ve always done it without one political party trying to hold hostage the entire government of the United States for their political purposes. A default is too important for us to play games.”
At stake also would be $307.3 million in retirement, disability, veterans benefits, grants, procurements, salaries and wages for Auglaize County, $1 billion for Allen County, $207 million for Mercer County and $220.7 million for Hardin County.
Brown said he realizes the deficit needs to be addressed and a plan from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accomplishes this.
Reid’s plan reduces the deficit by $2.2 trillion with $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending cuts and $100 billion in mandatory savings during the next 10 years. Some of the cuts are made from recalling troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Leader Reid’s plan is not perfect,” Brown said. “It is not the balanced approach I hoped for, but it does the fundamentally most important thing — it prevents a default, reduces the deficit, protects Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid.”
With frustration in his voice, Brown said 100 percent of the spending cuts included in the bill previously had the support of Republicans.
He also described the debt debate as “complicated” and “contentious,” but “default should be absolutely unimaginable.” He said the debate is a move, as promised by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to ensure Obama is not re-elected.
“This is a radical step to try to keep the President of the United States from protecting this economy,” Brown said. “It’s particularly radical when you consider the policies that got us to these huge budget deficits were giveaways to the drug companies, two wars we didn’t pay for and two major tax cuts for the rich.”
The U.S. senator said default would amount to a permanent tax hike on all Americans through increased interest rates, credit costs would increase and repercussions to retirement funds.
“Every state would be hurt by a federal default — every single state — which is why governors of both parties are calling for a deal,” Brown said. “There is a reason that time after time that President Reagan went 18 times and the most recent President Bush went seven times — they understood that default was unimaginable and increasing and amazingly damaging to our country, so these were discussions we never had and they would never would have brokered this kind of ideological rejection of doing this the right way.”
Brown claimed House Speaker John Boehner’s initial proposal only provided one-third of the savings of the Reid proposal. After a report from the Congressional Budget Office, Boehner revisited his plan to make additional cuts.
Brown also objected to Boehner’s plan resurrecting the debt ceiling debate in six months to a year.
“The Boehner plan puts us back in this situation in a few months — what rational economist, what responsible elected official wants to do this to the United States of America again in six months, or nine months or a year,” Brown said. “Why would we want to put ourselves in that position again where people are jittery, the markets are unsure and investors have to play wait-and-see all while we in Washington try to figure out our political game. That is simple unacceptable.”
Brown also remarked on the division between Boehner, who is backing the “Cut, Cap and Balance” approach, and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. Jordan, chair of the Republican Study Committee, is against Boehner’s plan because it does not make deep enough cuts.
“To me it looks like a fight between the far right and the extreme right,” Brown said. “These intra-party fights on who can be more extreme and who can be more irresponsible simply don’t put our country first.”