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Langevin Makes Case for Compromise in Debt Ceiling Debate


Location: Washington, DC

As part of today's House debate over Speaker John Boehner's legislation on the debt ceiling, Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) issued the following statement to his colleagues, rejecting the Speaker's short-term solution, which would cause a repeat of the dangerous debt ceiling debate in a few short months. Langevin urged everyone involved to put politics aside with just five days before the deadline to act and to work together to ensure the nation pays its bill.

Mr. Speaker, with six days left until we default on our national debt, there is simply no excuse for the partisan gridlock that has blocked all progress toward a fair and balanced agreement. This week, Congressional switchboards lit up and websites crashed under the sheer volume of outreach from citizens who wanted their voices heard in this debate. I hope my colleagues were listening. The resounding message I received from Rhode Islanders was that they are tired of political games. They want their leaders to work together to solve this problem in the best interests of the country. We have an opportunity to do that, and we literally can't afford to squander it with the usual Washington politics.

Our surest path to success includes a balanced approach of spending cuts and revenue increases that will reduce our budget deficit, stabilize our rising debt, reassure global markets and create greater economic certainty to bolster our fragile recovery. I will not support a plan that forces benefit cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or places the entire burden of deficit reduction on middle-class families, seniors, the disabled and others already struggling through the effects of a deep recession. We must all be willing to share in the sacrifice, and that includes multinational corporations and the richest 2 percent of income earners who received the lion's share of tax breaks under the Bush tax cuts. This approach has bipartisan support in the Senate, as well as from officials in previous Democratic and Republican Administrations.

However, my Republican colleagues in the House have opted to turn a deaf ear to reason, choosing instead to put forward "The Budget Control Act," a politically-motivated proposal that makes clear their willingness to drive our nation into default rather than compromise in the best interests of Americans. This short-term extension contains arbitrary spending caps and a Balanced Budget Amendment so conservative in nature that it would deem unconstitutional the fiscal policies of Presidents Reagan and Bush, as well as the budget passed by the Republican House earlier this year.

The most egregious part of this legislation is that it only offers a short-term fix that will force Congress to revisit this same debate in a few months, setting the stage for another partisan fight as lawmakers gear up for the next election. It's hard to imagine how things could get much worse in Washington, but I can promise you we will find out if we have to replay this battle again next year. Moreover, it is exactly the wrong message to be sending the American people and the world. A short-term extension would fail to establish economic certainty, reassure businesses or provide market confidence. In fact, ratings agencies have warned that under the Republican proposal, the U.S. credit rating could still be downgraded, leading to higher interest rates and a tax on all American families.

The Senate is considering legislation that, while imperfect, protects our most vulnerable citizens, cuts more than two trillion dollars, and ensures we avoid a repeat of this dangerous game in a few months. While it may not represent my preferred approach of including both spending cuts and revenue increases, it at least offers a compromise that a majority of members should be able to accept. It is time for both parties to put their differences aside, if not for good, then for long enough to agree on a balanced approach to pay our nation's bills, reduce the deficit and give businesses and markets renewed confidence in the full faith and credit of the United States. They should never have had to doubt it in the first place.

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