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ST. MARYS — An Ohio Senator stressed the urgency to resolve the impasse regarding raising the debt ceiling or risk a financial catastrophe.
“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,” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said during a teleconference with regional media Wednesday afternoon. “We can debate how we got here, 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, 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.”
Brown lambasted Republicans for stalling on coming to an agreement to raise the debt ceiling before the country defaults on its debts. Brown said in the past three decades, the debt limit has been raised 38 times.
“Thirty-four of those 38, just about 90 percent, were under Republican presidents,” Brown said. “We can balance the budget like we did under President Clinton with a balance between spending cuts and revenues.”
Brown claimed Republicans were holding the country hostage in order to advance their party agenda.
Brown said a default should never be a consideration for legislators in Washington.
“A default would risk what would amount to a permanent tax hike on Americans,” Brown said. “Interest rates would go up.”
Brown noted during Ronald Reagan’s administration, he sought an increase in the debt ceiling 18 times, and Bush asked for it seven times.
“They understand that default was unimaginable,” Brown said. “These were not discussions they ever had.”
Efforts to strike a compromise among the parties has stalled as legislators draw closer deadline next week. Brown said the country is running out of time to protect against default.
“It’s truly a compromise because it meets the Republicans’ main criteria — it contains spending cuts to roughly match the debt ceiling increase,” Brown said of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal. “The spending cuts are ones Republicans have agreed to and it contains no revenue increases. What do they want us to do when we have basically met their objectives in those three things?”
Brown said House Speaker John Boehner’s proposal contained one-third of the cuts in Reid’s plan. Brown also called into question Boehner’s plan to revisit debt talks in the near future.
“Leader Reid’s plan is not perfect,” Brown said. “It not the balanced approach I hoped for, but it does the fundamentally, most important thing — it prevents a default.”
Brown also called the tactics of a group of conservative Republicans as “radical.”
“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.”
Brown also weighed in on the conflict between Boehner and U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan. Jordan, chair of the Republican Study Committee, has spoken out against Boehner’s proposal.
“To me it looks like a fight between the far right and the extreme right,” Brown said. “I can’t understand, I can’t believe they’re going to say let’s do this in six months ... I hope they put their country first. These inter-party fights on who can be more extreme and who can be more irresponsible simply don’t put our country first.”