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Congresswoman Johnson on Debt Ceiling: A Letter to the Editor

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From Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson

Dear Editor:

The United States has reached the current debt ceiling, which is set by law at $14.294 trillion, and Congress must act by August 2, 2011 to avoid defaulting on its loans. If Congress fails to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling, it will cripple our economy, halt our recovery and end up costing taxpayers more in the long-run.  For those reasons, I agree with financial analysts and experts who say that raising the debt ceiling is necessary to ensure our fiscal stability and continued economic recovery.

Although the bill to raise the debt limit did not pass in the U.S. House of Representatives in May, I voted in favor of the measure because defaulting on the U. S. debt would have disastrous consequences for our economy.

The Republican leadership brought this bill to the floor, but ironically urged their Members not to vote for it. The national debt limit is not a joke and needs to be taken very seriously.  Normally, the periodic raising of the national debt limit is a noncontroversial legal necessity to ensure that the U.S. does not default on its debt obligations to foreign creditors and maintains its credit rating.

Raising the debt limit does not authorize new spending – it simply allows the government to finance existing legal obligations that Congresses and presidents of both parties have made in the past.  The United States Congress has acted 78 times to raise, extend, or revise the debt limit; 49 times under Republican presidents and 29 times under Democratic presidents.

While no one is more frustrated than I am about our current fiscal state of affairs, I support responsible efforts to bring down our national debt. I firmly believe that it is a mistake to compound past irresponsibility with further irresponsibility on this issue. If Congress fails to increase the debt limit, the government would start to default on its foreign owned debts, which would have “calamitous” consequences for the U. S. economy. Not to mention it would be unprecedented in American history.

In addition, if the United States defaulted:

  • Investors would be less likely to lend to this country;
  • Borrowing costs, not only for the federal government, but for families, businesses and local governments would increase;
  • and so would interest rates for municipal bonds, mortgages, car loans, and student and business loans.

America’s debt is a non-partisan concern. Both parties share responsibility for ensuring that this nation’s bills are paid. I stand ready to work with all of my colleagues to meet our obligations and put forward a productive plan to reduce the deficit.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, (TX-30)

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