Baucus: Compromise needed in debt ceiling, spending cut debate
Although the powers in Washington said today that a deal is close in the battle to raise the nation's debt ceiling, two Montana U.S. lawmakers remain at odds on how that battle should be resolved, while Montana's senior member of Congress is calling on all lawmakers to work together to find a solution.
"There are a lot of good ideas out there, on both sides of the aisle. Now, when the stakes are so high, it's all the more important that that we listen to each other, find a solution, and work together to get something done," Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said in a release Saturday afternoon. "Our seniors, business owners and troops are counting on us, and the thought of our Montana men and women fighting overseas not getting paid or our seniors not getting their Social Security checks because we can't work together is outrageous. We must work together to find a solution quickly."
A slurry of press releases came after the House voted down a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 246-173 — voted it down before the Senate took a vote.
The vote on the measure, which measure would have raised the debt limit by $2.4 trillion while cutting spending by $2.2 trillion, came just three days before officials say the nation will start running out of money. If the debt ceiling is not raised by Tuesday, allowing the nation to borrow more money, the government will not have enough to pay all of its expenses.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., — opponents in next year's Senate election — took different, partisan, views on Saturday's vote.
Rehberg said something could come out of the bill, but not without work.
"As it's currently written, Senator Reid's plan relies on more budget gimmicks instead of real spending reductions. It delays necessary spending control until after the election. And it brings absolutely no accountability to the federal government," Rehberg said in his release Saturday. "It may be good politics for the president's re-election, but it's not good policy for the hardworking American taxpayer. But it's a start, and I'm eager to role up my sleeves and find a solution that can pass."
But Tester slammed the vote.
"Today the House of Representatives failed Montana again by choosing extreme political ideology over the Senate's responsible, long-term plan to cut more than $2.2 trillion in spending and to guarantee the certainty Montana's businesses deserve." he said in his release Saturday. "House lawmakers insist on an irresponsible, partisan plan that cuts Medicare and Social Security in order to protect tax loopholes for millionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas. And they insist on a short-term plan because they want to draw out this damaging, divisive debate into election season for their own political gain.
"Montanans are fed up with these Washington gimmicks," he added.,
His campaign spokesman, Preston Elliott, went further, directly slamming Rehberg's vote.
"As a former gymnast he's used to flip-flopping. But we Montanans will never understand why Dennis Rehberg claims to support Social Security and Medicare, only to turn around and vote against it, while protecting tax loopholes for fellow millionaires," Elliott said in a statement Saturday. "Today he followed orders from his party bosses again, putting his own self-interest ahead of Montana's best interest, and Montana deserves better."
Rehberg cited the bills passed by the House — and rejected by the Senate — which would have tied raising the debt ceiling to spending cuts and approving a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. He added that, now that a Senate bill has reached the House, a compromise may be possible.
" The House has passed two bills to cut current spending, control future spending and finally bring the same fiscal accountability to the federal government that Montana families and 49 states already have," Rehberg said. "Now, finally, the Senate has proposed a plan and put it down on paper. That's a huge step, and while it's certainly not the plan I would prefer, at least now we can sit down and try to find common ground to bring this crisis to a responsible end."
Baucus said something has to be done, and fast. He cited warnings from economists that unless a long-term solution is found, it is likely to hurt the nation's credit rating, and, in turn, hurt U.S. citizens as interest rates rise. He supports the Senate proposal as a long-term solution, but is willing to negotiate, he said in the release.
" It's so important that we find a long-term solution and not simply kick this can down the road. Montanans want certainty, predictability and jobs — and they can't afford to constantly have to worry about how political fights in Washington are going to affect their payroll, mortgages and Social Security," Baucus said. "We've got to cut spending, balance the budget and show the world that America is still a great investment. And the only way we can do that is with a long-term compromise."