WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo said Monday he would “absolutely not” vote to raise the debt ceiling without spending cuts, downplaying the possibility of a U.S. default that has already made global markets nervous.
A defiant Pompeo was in Wichita where he spoke to a friendly audience at the local Rotary Club before flying back to Washington, D.C. where lawmakers appeared to be making little headway on either reopening the government or raising the debt ceiling.
The government shutdown last began Tuesday after a group of tea party Republicans in Congress made a last-ditch effort to block funding for President Barack Obama’s health insurance overhaul. Obama has resisted efforts to tie a bill to reopen the government and raise the borrowing authority with GOP demands for changes in the 3-year-old health care law and spending cuts.
But Pompeo, a conservative Kansas Republican, told reporters in Wichita that, without concessions from Democrats, the U.S. House lacks the votes to pass the temporary spending bill to keep the government operating.
“I prefer to think about it as just taking a little bit of a break,” Pompeo said of the government shutdown.
Pompeo disputed Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s statement that the country faces the possibility of defaulting on its debts if the borrowing limit is not raised. Pompeo claimed Lew’s assertion was “simply false” because the government still collects revenues even without raising the limit.
In Sunday television appearances, Lew warned that on Oct. 17, he will exhaust the bookkeeping maneuvers he has been using to keep borrowing. He said the U.S. must increase its debt ceiling by then or face the possibility of defaulting on its debts, a move that would shake the global economy and financial markets.
“When we start to get to the place where the borrowing capacity is constrained for the federal government, there are real risks to the economy,” Pompeo told the Rotary Club. “I do not for one second diminish how real those are. But, having said that, doing nothing guarantees we will default on our debt.”
The Kansas congressman contends the nation is headed down the path of “fiscal calamity” long after this moment has passed because the government is spending far more money than it takes in each day.
While conceding that the deficit has been cut in half, Pompeo said it remains one of the third largest in the U.S. history.
“It’s perhaps true, but irrelevant, to say the deficit has been cut in half,” he said.
Pompeo blamed the shutdown on President Barack Obama’s refusal to negotiate, but he conceded Republicans had flaws too by initially demanding to defund the new health care law.
“We started with a proposition that was unlikely to be achieved,” Pompeo said.
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