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By Tim Leeds 

Tester: Much of debt ceiling debate is 'political theater'


Montana's U. S. Sen. Jon Tester said Thursday Congress should avoid "political theater" during the discussion to reduce the deficit and debt.

"It seems to me that politics is getting in everybody's way, " Tester said during a telephone press conference with Montana reporters.

Tester said in the press conference that the solution can be found — Congress can find a responsible way to cut spending or generate revenue to offset the deficit $4 trillion to $5 trillion. But, he said, some in Congress seem to be looking more to the 2012 elections, in which he himself is up for re-election, than to solving the problem.

Solving the problems is far more important than his, or anyone's, chance of being re-elected, he said.

"This is about financial accountability, " Tester said. "We ought to quit screwing around. There are plenty of things we can talk about in the elections.

"And we can do this. We can make the books balance in the short and long haul, " he added, saying it will take tough decisions and "everybody is going to feel some pain, but we can do this. "

Lawmakers have worked across the aisle looking at solutions, he said, citing the work of the "Gang of Six, " a bipartisan group of senators who worked on a deficit-cutting plan to would blend spending cuts with a tax code overhaul.

Tester said that group, which lost one of its members in May, may be coming together once again.

He said nothing is off the table for discussion, although the nation needs to approach long-term and short-term approaches differently.

For example, he said, the nation does need to talk about how to handle entitlements differently. At the same time, "We don't want to cut the legs off of Social Security tomorrow, " he said.


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