July 30, 2011
Today, I’d like to speak with you about the ongoing and urgent efforts to avoid a first-ever default and get our fiscal house in order.
Republicans in the House of Representatives just spent precious days trying to pass a plan that a majority of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate had already said they wouldn’t vote for. It’s a plan that wouldn’t solve our fiscal problems, but would force us to re-live this crisis in just a few short months. It would hold our economy captive to Washington politics once again. If anything, the past few weeks have demonstrated that’s unacceptable.
Any solution to avoid default must be bipartisan. It must have the support of both parties that were sent here to represent the American people – not just one faction of one party. There are multiple ways to resolve this problem. Congress must find common ground on a plan that can get support from both parties in the House. And it’s got to be a plan that I can sign by Tuesday.
Look, the parties are not that far apart here. We’re in rough agreement on how much spending we need to cut to reduce our deficit. We agree on a process to tackle tax reform and entitlement reform. There are plenty of ways out of this mess. But there is very little time.
We need to reach a compromise by Tuesday so that our country will have the ability to pay its bills on time – bills like Social Security checks, veterans’ benefits, and contracts we’ve signed with thousands of American businesses. If we don’t, for the first time ever, we could lose our country’s Triple A credit rating. Not because we didn’t have the capacity to pay our bills – we do – but because we didn’t have a Triple A political system to match it. And make no mistake – for those who reflexively oppose tax increases on anyone, a lower credit rating would be a tax increase on everyone – we’d pay higher interest rates on mortgages, car loans, and credit cards.
That would be inexcusable, and entirely self-inflicted by Washington. The power to solve this is in our hands. All that’s needed is a simple vote that Democrats and Republicans have taken for decades, including all of the leaders in Congress today. It was done 18 times under President Reagan. 7 times under George W. Bush. And it must be done again now. It’s not a vote that allows Congress to spend more money. Raising the debt ceiling simply gives our country the ability to pay the bills Congress has already racked up. It gives the United States of America the ability to keep its word. And it will let businesses and our economy breathe a sigh of relief.
On Monday night, I asked you to make your voice heard in this debate. And the response was overwhelming. One of the emails we received was from a woman named Kelly Smith, who wanted to send this message to Washington:
“I keep my home clean, work hard at a full time job, give my parents any monies I can so they can afford their medications, I pay my bills and by all appearances I am a responsible person. All I’m asking is that you be responsible. I have my house in order and all I’m asking is that you get yours the same way.”
Here in Washington, we need to get our house in order. And I have to say, Democrats in Congress and some Senate Republicans have been listening and have shown themselves willing to make compromises to solve this crisis. Now all of us – including Republicans in the House of Representatives – need to demonstrate the same kind of responsibility that the American people show every day. The time for putting party first is over. The time for compromise on behalf of the American people is now. Thank you.