Senator Jay Rockefeller today issued the following statement after he voted for the House bill on raising the debt ceiling for three months.
"Raising the debt ceiling is the responsible thing to do. It isn't about spending; it's about paying the bills we already have. Rather than holding our economy hostage and waiting until the last minute, we now have the assurance that we can honor our current obligations and avoid the risk of downgrading our nation's credit rating again.
"The debt ceiling is not a bargaining chip. Failing to raise the debt ceiling would lead to a weaker economy, deal a blow to American jobs, hurt people's retirement savings, and raise interest rates on loans and credit cards. It is not an option. This bill also protects Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security in the short term, and I will continue fighting against efforts to slash them under the guise of deficit reduction.
"Congress has taken strong steps to reduce the deficit and restore our fiscal solvency, including passing more than $2 trillion in budget cuts and cutting taxes for 99.7 percent of West Virginians in the fiscal cliff deal. We will do more. But it's deeply important for every American that we avoid defaulting on our current responsibilities and seriously damaging our economy."
In August 2011, the Senate and House passed the bipartisan Budget Control Act, which took the place of an annual non-binding Congressional budget resolution, and set spending levels for the next two years. It has reduced the deficit, helped restore the nation's fiscal solvency, and included more than $2 trillion in budget cuts last year.
Avoiding raising the debt ceiling would lead America to default on its public debt. Default could:
* Interrupt Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and veterans benefits, as well as payments to troops serving at home and abroad (451,000 West Virginians receive Social Security checks while 29,000 receive veterans benefits);
* Permanently raise interest rates, driving up costs for American families;
* Increase mortgage payments by more than $1,000 for the average family;
* Increase credit card interest payments by $250 for the average family;
* Weaken the dollar, driving up the price families pay for utilities, food, and gas;
* Cause uncertainty in the financial markets, leading to losses in retirement savings;
* Interrupt essential federal help to communities across West Virginia and the country for law enforcement, transportation, and other critical investments that could cause property taxes to go up; and
* Downgrade America's credit rating, which would have far-reaching economic consequences, including pushing the country back into a deep economic recession and diminishing America's economic status in the world.