Senators warn of upcoming debt deadline

WASHINGTON – Senator Mark Udall said that in order to avoid potential economic catastrophe, Washington must not wait until the Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt limit.

“We’ve got to stop the political fighting and posturing and start working together on the debt,” the Democratic Colorado senator said during a Thursday call with reporters. “The markets are begging for a response, and they won’t tolerate a game of chicken.”

He said that if Congress doesn’t form an outline of an agreement in the next week to 10 days, it would be very difficult to finalize any plan by Aug. 2, which is the point when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the U.S. could run out of borrowed money and default on its obligations.

Udall’s remarks came on the heels of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to cancel the July 4 recess that was scheduled for next week. Reid made the announcement after President Barack Obama scolded Congress on Wednesday for a lackadaisical work schedule and the lack of progress on the debt limit.

Congress has been working for months to arrive at an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling before the Aug. 2 deadline.

A showdown over the limit is anticipated as the Democratic Senate and Republican-led House clash over proposals that also would include solutions to long-term financial problems. Senate Democrats are saying tax increases must be included in a final plan, whereas House Republicans are calling for deep spending cuts equal to any increase in the debt limit and have said they will reject any proposal that includes tax increases.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., expressed frustration at the tone of the negotiations.

“A part of me would rather be back home spending time with my family and engaging in real, common-sense conversations with Coloradans than in Washington, a place that remains utterly detached from reality,” Bennet said in a written statement.

But he hopes the Fourth of July work week will bring “serious, constructive and solutions-oriented work on our nation’s deficit and debt.”

Udall said that as negotiations move forward, all potential solutions should be considered.

“We’ve got to put everything on the table, not draw any lines in the sand,” he said.

He also reiterated his support for the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission recommendations, which include spending cuts, increases in taxes and the elimination of tax loopholes, and changes to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

Udall said such “common-sense ideas” were the best way to win the global economic race of the 21st century.

“I believe that this is not just a problem, this is an opportunity to send a message that we’re going to get a handle on our long-term financial situation,” he said.

Karen Frantz is a student at the American University and intern with The Durango Herald

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