August 03, 2011

DEBT CEILING AGREEMENT AVOIDED DEFAULT AND PROTECTED SOCIAL SECURITY, MEDICARE/MEDICAID AND FEDERAL WORKERS


By:  Senator Ben Cardin

The recent budget crisis was very harmful to our nation. It put into question our nation’s financial stability and threatened the economic security of millions of Americans.  We were forced into such a situation by a few Republican lawmakers who held our economy hostage, playing a dangerous game with the full faith and credit of the United States.

 The American people were clearly disgusted by the inability of members of Congress to compromise and come to an agreement.  In calls, e-mails, Facebook, tweets and letters to my office, Marylanders urged us to work together to find a bipartisan solution to avoid default.  They also made it clear that it was Congress’s job to provide certainty to the markets, our creditors, as well as our soldiers fighting overseas, seniors depending on Social Security, small businesses relying on affordable credit, and working families struggling to keep up payments on credit cards.

The result was a budget agreement that was not perfect, but I supported it because it avoided default.  I believe this budget compromise agreement is a positive step forward because it raises the debt ceiling through 2013, which provides important stability to the American people and the financial markets.  Other, short-term proposals that had been considered by the House would have continued to harm our economy and would have brought about a rerun of the latest partisan episode. 

The budget compromise passed by Congress and now signed into law by President Obama provides for nearly $1 trillion in deficit reduction during the next 10 years.  But importantly, it protects domestic priorities by allowing more than $40 billion in discretionary domestic spending next year than was contained in the Republican budget that passed the House. The agreement also calls for at least an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction to be proposed by a Joint Congressional Committee and enacted by the end of the year.  Automatic, across-the-board cuts are triggered if these additional reductions are not made.  The budget deal balances these future cuts equally between defense and domestic programs, and – importantly it protects Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.

This agreement is not one I would have crafted.  I have concerns that it may not provide appropriate balance to solving our long-term deficit and debt problem and I’m troubled by the lack of additional revenue measures, including closing tax loopholes for millionaires and subsidies for oil companies already making record profits. But we had a responsibility to act. Default on our debt for the first time in our nation’s history was not an option.

Our leaders negotiated a bipartisan compromise that has been enacted into law. Now it is time to turn our attention to creating jobs and strengthening our economy.

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