Senator Leahy's Address On The Debt Limit Crisis And The Proposed Solution Introduced Tuesday By Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Remarks As Prepared For Delivery

I applaud President Obama and Majority Leader Reid for real leadership and persistence over many months in trying to find a bipartisan solution to the debt crisis.  Senator Reid has put forward a solution that would end the current crisis and reduce our unsustainable national debt.  This is a solution that has the potential to draw support from lawmakers from both parties who are willing to put common sense and the national interest above partisanship and ideology.

By repeatedly walking away from the table and insisting on their way or no way, those who are holding the American people and our economy hostage are playing ideological games with serious consequences for everyone else.  Through their tactics they threaten great risk to the well-being of ordinary Americans.  The longer this goes on, the greater the danger of lasting damage below the waterline of our democracy.

Right now, Leader Reid’s $2.7 trillion debt reduction package is the best chance to avoid a default and a credit-rating downgrade that would damage our fragile economy and impose a credit hike ‘tax’ on every American family.  This plan consolidates terms agreed to in the ongoing negotiations, proposing a solution that would end the current crisis, accomplish wide-ranging savings, and garner enough bipartisan support to pass.  It would end the roller-coaster of unpredictability that shackles our economy by offering financial stability through 2012.  Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid beneficiaries would be spared a loss of benefits.  The American people would begin to recognize the savings from withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.  And essential education, job-creation, housing, and environmental investments for America’s economic recovery and for a strong economic future would be protected from the slashing cuts proposed in Speaker Boehner’s plan.  Republican leaders previously have backed all of the spending reductions called for in the Reid plan.

I do not agree with all aspects of this proposed solution, and I wish it included new revenue, especially by ending such costly and outdated tax benefits as those still enjoyed by the biggest oil companies, to help us pay off debt even more quickly.  To help pay for the debt incurred by the inexcusable earlier decisions to enter two wars without paying for them, I continue to believe that a surcharge for the wealthiest would mean they would pay more of their fair share, after so many years of tax cuts tilted their way.  Yet it is far easier to walk away from the negotiating table than to make the hard choices needed on behalf of the American people.  We need serious statesmanship on both sides for this to work before it is too late. 

The economic health of our country and the jobs of thousands of hard-working Americans should not be mired in politics.  It is well past the time for House factions to put politics aside and accept a long-term deficit reduction plan that does not force America’s most vulnerable to shoulder the burden.  Just as many Vermont families are forced to make difficult financial decisions, Congress must be open to considering all available options. 

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