Senator hopes deal will come out to keep govt. operating through fall
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont ., accurately predicting what would happen in the hours following his press conference Thursday, said he is hopeful Congress will work out a deal to keep the government running, but an even bigger showdown with bigger implications is coming next month.
Tester said Thursday afternoon he thought the Senate would be able to pass a resolution to keep government running through November, past the Oct. 2 deadline that would shut much of the government down without congressional action.
The Senate expected this afternoon to pass just such a resolution, sending it back to the House for a vote — possibly with revisions that would again send it to the Senate — but Tester said Thursday the Oct. 17 deadline to raise the national debt limit is an even bigger crisis.
“I will tell you, comparatively speaking, the government shutdown would be very, very bad,” he said. “The debt ceiling thing is playing with total fire because it could put this country into an economic tailspin that would make the 1930s look like a high-growth time. It is very, very scary.”
The House originally tied defunding Obamacare — the health care reform act Congress passed in 2010 — to its continuing resolution to keep the government operating.
After Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, finished a 21-hour speech urging the Senate to block its own version that strips the defunding, the Senate moved forward with that bill.
Tester said once the Senate passes the bill, he expects it to go to the House for revisions, then come back to the Senate.
“So, there’s going to be a little game of ping pong going on for now, but the bottom line is, is that a government shutdown would be a very bad thing and hopefully there’s a majority, or hopefully there’s 60 people, in the Senate who feel that very same way.”
He said shutting down government would stop legitimate, needed services for millions of people, but he thinks there are people in both bodies who want the federal government to close, because they don’t like government.
“If the government got shut down, they would go to sleep, and I think it’s a very corrupted view, but they would sleep well. I don’t think they understand the full ramifications of it,” Tester said. “But the truth that we’re playing, and it is, it’s a bit of a game of chicken, but I think its a real game.”
But, he said, playing with the debt limit ceiling is even more dangerous. The country went from a triple-A bond rating to a double-A rating when legislators just talked about not raising the ceiling two years ago, he said. Not raising the limit, or waiting to the last minute, would hurt the country’s rating and drive up interest on business loans, credit cards, student loans and mortgages, Tester said.
“If this is played out and played out to the end, it’s impacts on businesses and families are going to be incredibly severe,” Tester said. “I don’t mean to scare people on this call, but the truth is that this is a bad game to play.”
He said people characterize not raising the debt ceiling as a way to reduce national debt, but what it actually would do is prevent the country from paying bills it already has accrued, he said.
“The only way to get our debt and deficit under control is with a big, comprehensive, bipartisan plan,” Tester said. “Anything else would be irresponsible and wouldn’t cut it, and the fact that we’re even talking about not increasing our debt limit is making things difficult for businesses across the country working families and even us folks in agriculture.”