WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats warned Thursday of dire economic consequences if Congress fails to raise the US debt ceiling, saying it could prompt a shutdown of the federal government.
“It’s playing with fire,” said US Senator Chuck Schumer said of the legislative standoff.
If a shutdown were to occur, “citizens couldn’t get their checks, veterans couldn’t get their benefits, military payments would stop,” the veteran New York lawmaker said.
Congress early in 2010 raised the US debt ceiling to nearly $14.3 trillion — very near the current US debt of some $13.9 trillion dollars.
The government will run out of money in about two months’ time, according to the US Treasury Department, unless Congress votes to raise the federal debt ceiling.
They insist instead of that it is time for massive spending cuts and belt-tightening, and say that raising the debt ceiling further only forestalls needed austerity moves.
Illinois Senator Richard Durbin said a similar curtailment of government services today could “precipitate an economic crisis, driving up interest rates on mortgages, loans, businesses, families across America.”
Durbin called it a “political tactic could kill our economic recovery and drive unemployment even higher.”
Democrats noted that the last similar such standoff which led in 1995 to a brief government shutdown that was limited in scope, proved politically costly for Republicans after the public sided en masse with Democratic President Bill Clinton.
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