Senator to GOP: Debt Limit Not a ‘Negotiating Tool’ for Deficit Reduction

Despite the nation’s $439 billion budget deficit, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Republicans should not use the debt limit as a “negotiating tool” for spending cuts.

Days before the Senate passed this week's budget and debt deal, Warner, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), all members of the Senate Finance Committee, held a conference call to urge Republican leaders in Congress to schedule a vote on a debt limit increase.

Given that a balanced budget would avoid the need to raise the debt limit every year, PJ Media asked the senators if Congress should enact spending reforms to prevent future fights over the debt ceiling.

Sen. Schumer asked Sen. Warner if he would like to respond to the question.

“Let me just point out some facts. Right now, because of actions taken by both Democrats and Republicans, domestic discretionary spending is at an historic low, lower than it’s been in modern American history. As a matter of fact, we are on the path, under the current budget baselines, to cut from not the Obama levels but from the Bush ’07 levels. In the next 6 years, we are on a path to cut education, infrastructure and research by 50 percent from Bush 2007 levels,” Warner said.

“As a business person, the business plan we are operating on right now that cuts education, infrastructure and research is not a credible business plan that any business leader would advocate. Now do we need entitlement reform? Absolutely. Do we need tax reform? Absolutely. I’d also point out that out of the 34 industrial nations in the world America has the distinction of having perhaps the most complicated tax code but also in terms of total revenue raised, 32nd out of 34 industrial nations. We fall at the very bottom in terms of revenues raised and that’s combined state, local and federal,” he added.

Warner criticized Republicans for trying to enact spending cuts as a condition for raising the debt ceiling. According to the Treasury Department, the national debt is currently $18.2 trillion.

“Over the last 65 years all but about 5 of those years we’ve ran a deficit so the notion that this is somehow a Democratic-only or Republican-only problem is just factually inaccurate – there’s plenty of blame to go around,” Warner said. “The only way we are going to get this fixed is through bipartisan collaboration, but the notion that you would try to use the debt ceiling where we’ve already occurred these expenses as a negotiating tool and put in jeopardy the full faith and credit of the United States of America is beyond irresponsible.”

Earlier in the conference call, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said the debt limit increase does not amount to any new spending commitments.

“My children on occasion have overspent while they were in college, we have an argument as to whether they should pay or whether I should pay, we do not as a family consider the possibility that we will simply not pay our Visa bill,” he said.

Schumer said the Republican plans introduced so far would lead the U.S. to economic collapse.

“I want to be crystal clear up front: both the [debt] prioritization bill the House is considering today and the Republican Study Committee’s proposal are dead on arrival in the Senate,” he said.

Under the Default Prevention Act, the Treasury Department could borrow above the current debt limit in order to pay the principal and interest on the debt held by the public.

“If you default on part of the debt, it’s like defaulting on all of the debt,” Schumer said.