“I am glad Republicans set aside their plan to gamble with default. It was bad politics and even worse policy.”
“A clean debt ceiling increase that allows the United States to meet its existing obligations should be the standard.”
“Congress will continue to work to reduce the deficit. But we’ll do it without the threat of default over our heads.”
Washington, D.C. – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today about the Senate’s upcoming vote on the House-passed legislation to suspend the debt ceiling. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
Later today, the Senate will vote on the House-passed legislation to suspend the debt ceiling until this summer and remove the specter of default hanging over the nation’s economy. I expect this legislation will pass on a strong, bipartisan vote – sending the message loud and clear that, while we are willing to negotiate on many things, we will not engage in another irresponsible debate over whether the United States government should pay its bills. I would remind my Republican colleagues that most of them voted to incur the debts now coming due. And suspending the debt limit won’t authorize a penny of new spending – but it will ensure we pay the bills we’ve already incurred.
I was reassured by House Republicans’ decision last week to back off their reckless threat to hold the debt ceiling hostage. The legislation before the Senate sets an important precedent – that the full faith and credit of the United States will no longer be used as a pawn to extract painful cuts to Medicare, Social Security or other initiatives that benefit the middle class. A clean debt ceiling increase that allows the United States to meet its existing obligations should be the standard.
Congress will continue to work to reduce the deficit. But we’ll do it without the threat of default over our heads. We have already made nearly $2.5 trillion in historic, bipartisan deficit reduction. Democrats believe we should do more. And it’s critical that we use a balanced approach that couples smart spending cuts with revenue from the wealthiest Americans and from closing wasteful tax loopholes.
Obviously, Democrats would prefer a longer suspension of the debt ceiling, which would provide additional economic stability as we continue to find ways to decrease the deficit. Raising the possibility that the United States could default on its obligations every few months is not an ideal way to run a government. But a short-term solution is better than another imminent, manufactured crisis.
Even Republicans admit default would rock our financial system to its core. However, injecting uncertainty into the system every few months also has a chilling effect on the economy. This insecurity doesn’t just affect big investment banks or wealthy investors. It costs jobs. And all around the country, ordinary Americans with 401k’s and college savings accounts are affected.
I am glad Republicans set aside their plan to gamble with default. It was bad politics and even worse policy. Middle-class Americans remember the last time Republicans put us through a protracted fight over the debt ceiling in an effort to force deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other programs important to the middle class. They remember how the Tea Party forced the nation to the brink of default in 2011 – sending the stock market into a tailspin and prompting a historic downgrade of America’s credit rating. They remember how the economy suffered, and their own bottom lines suffered with it. They remember the consequences of Republicans’ willingness to threaten a national default. I’m relieved that this time Congress was able to reach a compromise and avoid a fight, so middle-class families get the certainty they badly need.