Blunt, McCaskill split on deficit plans

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Missouri News Horizon
By Tim Sampson
– The ongoing debate over the rapidly looming debt crisis has Missouri lawmakers sharply divide on the issue.

Each of Missouri’s senators weighed in on the pressing issue Wednesday, accusing the other side of being unwilling to compromise in order to reach an agreement that would allow congress to raise the nation’s debt ceiling while simultaneously lowering the deficit.

According to economists and President Barack Obama, less than a week remains to raise the debt limit before the U.S. faces the dire prospect of defaulting on its debt and losing its AAA credit rating. A vote on the debt limit – which has been raised 102 times in U.S. history already – is being delayed as Republicans use the urgent vote to leverage substantial federal spending cuts.

The debate has spawned two competing pieces of legislation: one from Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, and one from Republican House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. Each bill has been declared a non-starter by the opposing side, with Democrats controlling the Senate and the GOP controlling the House.

Missouri’s Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill placed blame for the current gridlock squarely at the feet of Boehner and House Republicans, who she said keep moving their demands further back from their original stated position.

“The Democrats have agreed to the demands made by the Republican Party,” McCaskill said. “Now what I don’t understand – what I can’t understand for the life of me – is why they are not saying ‘yes’ at this point.”

According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Reid’s version of the bill actually offers a larger deficit reduction at this point – to the tune of $2.2 trillion over the next decade. But that is partly to help ensure a bigger debt limit increase that would put off another debt ceiling debate for at least a year.

The CBO said that the current Republican plan would reduce the deficit only by $850 billion during the next decade, but would also require another debt ceiling debate in roughly six months.

Each side has accused one another of trying to play politics with the timing of the next debt ceiling negotiation, with Republicans accusing Obama and Democrats of trying to deliberately postpone another debate until after next year’s presidential election. Likewise, Democrats have accused Republicans of trying to force another debt ceiling debate in the middle of next year’s election as a way of causing economic instability and undermining the president.

McCaskill said that Republicans should be happy with the bill presented by Obama and the Democrats, saying it’s largely in line with their stated aims.
“The only difference is the Reid plan provides certainty for the next year, whereas the Boehner plan says ‘let’s leave a loaded gun on the middle of the table and do this again in six months,” she said.

But McCaskill’s Republican counterpart in Missouri, Sen. Roy Blunt, disagreed with this assessment. He said that Democrats have not offered up enough spending cuts, casting doubt on the actual savings in their version of the bill. Blunt conceded that the Democratic and Republican bills are largely similar, but he said that Reid’s bill overestimated the savings of the dwindling wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next decade.
“You can’t take the highest number you can find and multiply it by 10 and say that’s real savings,” Blunt said.

Blunt also accused Democrats of overplaying anxieties about the debt limit and the approaching default date, flatly saying that the federal government would not default on its debt. But he did note that tough spending decisions would have to be made.

He also said that the nation’s deficit was a bigger threat to its credit rating than the debt limit.

“For every rating agency that says not raising the debt ceiling is a problem, they’ve also said more often and at least as loud, if not louder, the bigger problem is the amount of money that the federal government is spending beyond its resources.”