July 20, 2011

Graves urges no compromise in debt talks

Charles Oliver

— Conservatives in the U.S. House of Representatives are in no mood to compromise on federal debt, says U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger.

Graves spoke to the Dalton Tea Party Tuesday night by video. Graves was scheduled to speak to the group in person, but House leaders scheduled a vote on a balanced budget bill for Tuesday night so he had to remain in Washington for that.

“This is something that we’ve been fighting for for a long time,” Graves said.

Congressional leaders and President Barack Obama are currently discussing raising the debt ceiling, something that will have to be done to allow the federal government to continue to borrow money.

“There’s a strong group of conservatives that are holding together and standing firm for what we know are the solutions to move us through the debt crisis,” Graves said.

He said those conservatives are pushing a “cut, cap and balance” approach to reining in federal debt. That approach calls for cutting federal spending, capping spending at a percentage of the gross domestic product and passing a balanced budget amendment.

“The debt crisis is not a future crisis. It’s today’s crisis. We’ve got to cut the deficit now,” Graves said.

The House approved a “cut, cap and balance” bill Tuesday night, which conditions raising the debt ceiling on meeting those goals. The bill now goes to the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Graves addressed the question of whether the federal government’s bond ratings could be reduced, which would raise its borrowing costs, if the debt problem isn’t addressed. He said the government has known for a long time that it faces a potential downgrade by ratings agencies because of the size of its debt, currently more than $14 trillion, and because it has no plan to get that debt under control.

“”We’ve got to have a plan. That’s the message the market is sending. It’s the message that job creators are sending,” Graves said.

Graves also attacked President Obama’s claims that Social Security checks might not go out if Congress doesn’t increase the debt ceiling by Aug. 2.

“These are scare tactics that are quite frankly unnecessary and below the presidency,” he said.

The president and the treasury secretary have the authority, he said, to prioritize the government’s spending and even if the debt ceiling isn’t raised the government will still bring in more than $200 billion in revenue each month.

“It’s up to the president and secretary to determine whom they are going to pay. Are they going to keep funding their liberal programs? Or are they going to put our seniors and our military first?” he said.

Dalton Tea Party organizer Naomi Swanson said that was the message the group’s members wanted to hear.

“They read the newspapers. They are worried, and they wanted to hear from him. They feel better. They feel connected, and they feel the congressman is listening to them,” she said.