Local lawmakers not impressed with D.C. politics in debt-ceiling battle

August 01, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ |

WASHINGTON COUNTY — Christopher B. Shank said his strongest feeling about the debt-ceiling battle in Washington, D.C., is as an American citizen, not as a Maryland state senator.

“I am deeply frustrated at both sides at their inability to get the job done,” Shank, R-Washington, said Monday.

He said elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — go to Annapolis to work on state issues. One party might challenge the other party during the legislative process, but in the end, the General Assembly fulfills its responsibilities, he said.

In recent weeks, Congress and President Obama, through their inaction, have taken the country “to the very brink of financial consequences, dire financial consequences,” Shank said.

Blasting both parties, Shank said, “A pox on both their houses.”

“I think everybody shares the blame,” Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, agreed. “But the important thing is that it will get done.”

Donoghue said Maryland, with its close connection to the federal government, stood to suffer greatly.

If federal employees were out of work, they wouldn’t have money to spend on gas, groceries or meals at restaurants, he said.

Maryland Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot — while at Premium Outlets in Hagerstown to promote an upcoming week without state sales tax — said Monday the result is what matters, calling the feud “an embarrassment to the country.”

“They need to get the job done and raise the debt ceiling,” he said. “And I hope they put country over party.”

The battle of the last few weeks has taken the focus away from large problems, such as a weak economy, high unemployment and a high rate of foreclosed homes, he said.

“All of the problems that they had six months ago still are in place after this deal,” Franchot said.

Politically, Shank said, House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican, deserves credit for his leadership and Obama, a Democrat, has demonstrated “woeful” leadership.

Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, said he supported efforts to cut spending and debt as much as possible, and to pass a constitutional amendment calling for a balanced budget.

“Our leaders need to take this debt extremely seriously ...,” he said. “A large part of this whole debate is: How much spending are we going to cut?”

Parrott, who founded the Hagerstown TEA (Taxed Enough Already) Party, said it makes no sense for Democrats to try to raise taxes in such a troubled economy.

Parrott called the tentative debt-ceiling agreement announced Sunday “very weak.”

“We’re going to increase the debt ceiling by over $2 trillion within a year,” he said. “And, then, what they vowed to do is cut spending by $2.7 trillion over 10 years. There’s no hammer in that. There’s no way to enforce that. I can’t tell that they’re going to cut anything this year at all, which is absurd, continuing the spending that we have in our country.”


How local House representatives voted

The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed a bipartisan bill that would extend federal borrowing authority until early 2013 by raising the existing $14.3 trillion debt ceiling to as high as $16.7 trillion in phases over the next 18 or so months. The bill effectively bars tax increases to achieve its goals and requires both houses to vote soon on a balanced-budget constitutional amendment.

The vote was 269-161.

Here’s how our local elected officials voted:

  • U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md., yes
  • U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., yes
  • U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., yes
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