Warner: Congress doesn't grasp fiscal peril ahead
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Sen. Mark Warner said Friday that few in Congress seem to grasp the economic calamity the nation faces if budget talks over the next month fail.
Warner, who made millions in business, said Americans face times harder than those three years ago if a deal isn't reached soon, but too many on Capitol Hill seem unconcerned or unmotivated.
"I hear from some senators, `Well, maybe things have to get worse before they get better,"' Warner said. "How many more millions of lives do you have to put in jeopardy - people pushed out of their homes, losing their jobs or can't buy a home because interest rates spiked."
"I think people think this is just one more Washington squabble," he said.
A moderate Democrat, Warner has called for a blend of spending cuts and closing some tax breaks as a way to rein federal debt that is now growing by trillions of dollars annually.
Republican negotiators, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., walked out of bipartisan debt-reduction talks with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday over Democrats' insistence that tax increases be included.
On Friday, President Barack Obama took over, inviting senior congressional leaders of both parties for direct meetings at the White House in an effort to reach a compromise.
After the 2008 Wall Street crisis triggered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, the nation still had resources to fight back, Warner noted. The Federal Reserve dropped interest rates and the federal government attempted to pump cash into the economy to stimulate it.
"We don't have those tools. And the circumstance in terms of the world economic situation is precarious," Warner said. "We're all bemoaning the fact that this recovery is slow to come about. Well, you want to put a stake through the heart of this recovery? Then let interest rates spike."
The government has until Aug. 2 to agree on boosting the nation's borrowing limit or risk defaulting on U.S. debt obligations for the first time ever.
Without a deal to raise the credit limit, Warner said, stock markets would go into a free fall, interest rates would jump by 6 to 7 percentage points, businesses would close and unemployment would spiral.
Congressional Republicans want about $2 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years before agreeing to raise the nation's borrowing limit, currently capped at $14.3 trillion.
Obama has repeatedly called for a "balanced framework" for long-term deficit reduction that includes both spending cuts and more tax revenue.
Democrats want to generate additional revenue by closing tax breaks besides the trillions of dollars in spending cuts.
On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner ruled out any tax increase as part of a final budget deal, leaving the talks at an impasse.