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Public Statements

In New Web Video, Senator Coons Lays Out the Consequences of Default

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington DC

A transcript of the video follows:

Hi, I'm Senator Chris Coons from Delaware, a member of the Budget Committee and like you, someone who's been watching with growing concern as we've come closer and closer to defaulting on America's mortgage.

I thought I'd take a few minutes and help explain what's really at stake and what the debate is here in the United States Congress. There are some -- Republicans -- in both the House and the Senate who've said that there is no real impending default crisis and if there is, it's not that big a dealÂ… the consequences for our families and our country won't be that great. They suggest that we've got enough coming in in income every month as a federal government to meet our core commitments. I'd like to take a minute and see how that argument really stacks up.

Every month, the United States government takes in about $172 billion, and every month, we spend about $307 billion -- and that's the core of our problem. We could meet some of our most important obligations. Social Security benefits: we could actually meet those every month with the money that's coming in. We also want to make sure we don't leave behind the hundreds of thousands of seniors and folks who are disabled who rely on Medicare and Medicaid to provide monthly healthcare tokeep them and their families strong, healthy, and secure.

So let's say we're going to meet these core commitments: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. And, of course, we're also a nation at war, so we wouldn't leave behind our troops in the field, our veterans, and our critical national security and defense infrastructure, so let's make sure we meet that commitment too. And as I said, there's folks that say on top of those three core commitments, we can also continue to meet interest on our national debt. So their argument is, "with $170 billion a month coming in, we can meet our core commitments -- what's the problem? We're just going to have some other things that we won't be able to meet.'

Well, what's in the rest of these commitments that we've made as a country month in and month out?

First among them is unemployment insurance. There are still millions of Americans who are relying on monthly unemployment insurance to stay in their homes, to feed their families, and to keep their head above water in these very difficult economic times. I guess we'll just forget about that commitment.

There's thousands of other places where federal employees and agencies do things that actually make a daily difference in the lives of Americans. In education: in continuing to pay the Pell Grants that keep thousands of students in colleges. In labor: in the inspectors who make sure that workplaces are safe and healthy. In folks who operate our justice system, in federal courts, in FBI agents, the federal prisons. What happens when we simply stop paying the prison guards? There are so many other areas. We're going to stop doing basic cancer research. We won't fund any more of the folks who staff the FAA and make sure that our airplanes are flying safely. We're not going to bother paying for border security or border patrol. We're, frankly, just going to let all of those commitments go. And the consequences of default for working families all over this country would be just awful.

Flirting with the possibility of default on our nation's mortgage is risky business, and Republicans, both here in the Senate and in the House, who say that the consequences wouldn't be serious aren't taking this seriously enough. Whether as a senator who has to worry about America's place in the world or as a father who's concerned about my family and my community, I take this very seriously.

It's my hope that you, too, see this as clearly as I do and as all of us here who are Senate Democrats do. We need to come together to find solutions and to take this seriously. We cannot afford for America to default.


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