U.S. House GOP proposes debt-ceiling extension, not shutdown end

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner had another proposal Thursday: Continue the federal government’s shutdown but extend the federal “debt ceiling,” the government’s ability to borrow money, for six weeks — but only if President Barack Obama first agrees to fresh negotiations on spending cuts.

The president and Senate Democrats rejected the idea.

In a telephone conference call with Missouri reporters Thursday morning, before Boehner and other GOP leaders met with Obama, U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt said: “My personal view is that raising the debt ceiling without changing spending behavior is a bad idea, and a missed opportunity.”

But, he acknowledged, lawmakers have had months to hold serious discussions on the nation’s economic future — and have failed to have those conversations.

“I’ve been talking about this for two years, about why don’t we do the work we’re supposed to do, in the way we’re supposed to do it?” Blunt said. “It’s clear that the normal work of the government — which should be led by the president, working with whatever Congress people have sent here — is just not getting done.”

Meanwhile, the government shutdown, now in its second week, is “beginning to impact people,” Blunt said.

He spent “quite a bit of time” this week “trying to see that a properly discharged military veteran could be buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery” in south St. Louis.

“Everything couldn’t be verified ... because the Records Center was closed.”

He said many Missouri farmers soon will get “harvest checks” from the government “that have to be co-signed by the Farm Service Agency, because of crop insurance and other payments that have be signed-off on.”

And, with the government shutdown, no one’s available to give that second signature.

“We’re going to begin to see people understand that the government serves a role, and that it’s necessary in many cases,” Blunt said.

“Thinking that the government being shut down is an acceptable way to move forward, I think, probably doesn’t produce any result that’s good — and produces a number (of results) that are bad.”

Blunt thinks the debt ceiling is an issue where officials can negotiate future U.S. spending policy — even though U.S. Treasury officials and many economists argue that the ceiling needs to be raised by next Thursday, or the federal government will begin defaulting on paying bills it already owes, with potentially disastrous economic results.

“I continue to think it’s essential that talking about future spending, and what to do about future spending — and doing something about future spending — is part of the critical discussion we need to have,” Blunt said, “rather than just a debt ceiling that does nothing but increase the ability to borrow money without having any impact on the ability to spend money.”

Blunt hopes Washington’s leaders can get things back on track — soon.

“One of the things I would hope would come from this failure to do our work is new public pressure on the House, the Senate and the president, to get this work done,” he said.

Blunt began his telephone news conference Thursday with a comment on recent successes for the St. Louis Cardinals, Missouri Tigers and Kansas City Chiefs.

“Based on how things are going in Washington, maybe the best thing would be to talk about Missouri sports — which are pretty good right now,” Blunt said. “They’re all doing better than Congress and the president are doing right now, would be my view.”

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