Federal workers may lose pay if debt deal fails, senator saysThe nation’s debt payments, Social Security checks and money owed to veterans and members of the military would almost certainly flow as normal should Congress and the White House fail to reach a debt-ceiling agreement by Tuesday’s deadline, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday. Federal workers might not be so lucky.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
The nation’s debt payments, Social Security checks and money owed to veterans and members of the military would almost certainly flow as normal should Congress and the White House fail to reach a debt-ceiling agreement by Tuesday’s deadline, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said Wednesday.
Federal workers might not be so lucky.
Thune said that his office is experiencing a high volume of calls from concerned constituents, and his staff reassures senior citizens and veter- ans that they won’t suffer any disruption in payments.
“There is broad bipartisan consensus that those are essential things,” Thune told reporters. “These will be taken care of. To suggest otherwise is trying to spread fear, and I just wish people wouldn’t do that right now.
“They shouldn’t worry about not getting their checks.”
When asked who might not get paid, Thune offered fewer details. He named federal workers and “discretionary spending” before shifting his tone to say he believes a deal will be struck.
“That’s so speculative and hypothetical, I don’t believe it’s going to happen. We’re going to get a deal,” he said.
When asked specifically if Mount Rushmore National Memorial, a national icon located in South Dakota, could close, he declined to answer.
“That’s all speculation and hypotheticals,” he said.
The Treasury Department has said it expects to need to borrow more money by next week — Tuesday, Aug. 2 — in order to pay all the bills that will come due.
Thune said the United States expects to receive about $173 billion in revenue during August and has $306 billion in “obligations,” leaving a $133 billion shortfall.
“You can pay our creditors, the interest on the debt, Social Security recipients, military families, veterans and have plenty of money left over,” Thune said. “I’ve seen the list of all the government funds, and I’ve seen the amount of payments we have to make.”
On Capitol Hill Wednesday, lawmakers appeared no closer to striking an agreement despite weeks of negotiations amongst the White House and congressional leaders. Thune said a proposal set forth this week by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, is the only plan with a chance of passing.
“(Boehner’s plan) will leave the Senate Dems in a position to decide whether they want to act on that or be responsible for a failure to increase the debt ceiling,” Thune said. “If the legislation passes, it will be up to the president to sign the bill or be responsible for our country not being able to meet its financial obligations.”
At the same time, news reports from Capitol Hill said conservative members from the Tea Party group have begun to say Boehner should be replaced, highlighting a rift within the GOP.
Thune said he is lukewarm about a plan set forth by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat. He likes that it includes no tax increases but worries that its budget cutting relies on “gimmicks” and counts $1.1 trillion in savings from the end of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, something which will happen in any case.
Thune said he holds out hope for a deal as the Tuesday deadline draws near and said he would prefer a bipartisan deal — ideally something drawn up by Boehner and Reid. However, at this stage he said whichever plan can get enough votes to pass — 217 in the House and 60 in the Senate — will be what passes.
“I’ve always believed that, in the end, Congress will do the right thing when there is a crisis,” he said.
“That hard deadline, that sense of urgency that triggers that cooperation.
“I would hope that Boehner and Reid could sit down and work this out, and the House and Senate could vote on the same piece of legislation. We’ve got to act like adults around here and figure out a way to get this done.”
He criticized President Obama, saying he has been “missing in action” and has not led on the debt issue. He called Obama’s threats to veto different proposals irresponsible and said a veto would be “a huge mistake.”
Meanwhile, his office continues to get calls.
“We’ve heard from South Dakotans on all sides of the issue who, more than anything else, just want us to get our work done.”