Arkansas congressmen to back debt ceiling agreement

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Arkansas' congressional leaders Monday or Tuesday are expected to vote in favor of a law that will prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its loans, and will allow the country's debt ceiling. Region 8 News reached out to Congressman Rick Crawford, Senator John Boozman, Senator Mark Pryor and Congresswoman Jo Ann Emerson Monday to discuss the debt agreement. Efforts to reach Emerson were unsuccessful Monday.

"I plan on supporting this and voting for it. We've kind of gone from just trying to cut a deal, a bipartisan deal, to really more of a bipartisan solution here," said Sen. Pryor.

Pryor said the plan would reduce a trillion dollars over the next ten years and allow lawmakers the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment would require the federal government to balance a budget each year, just as Arkansas' Constitution requires.

Under the plan, the U.S. would increase the debt ceiling up to $2.4 trillion. It would also appoint a special congressional committee to recommend additional cuts. If Congress doesn't take action on the committee's recommendation, deep automatic cuts will be made to Medicare and the defense budget.

"These are huge decisions. You're going to have to get into looking at entitlements, of course looking at discretionary spending, things like the military and the highways and things like that," said Pryor. "You have to put the tax code on the table to, so that's really what that bi partisan, joint committee will do."

Sen. Boozman told Region 8 News that he does not agree with a plan to raise taxes; however he said all options should be on the table. He told Region 8 News Congress has a spending problem, not a taxing problem.

The current plan would protect Medicaid, Social Security and other social programs. Medicare is not exempt, although cuts cannot exceed 2%.

"They mixed it together and they came up with this compromise. The truth is, it's fairly balanced. It does protect some things that are very important to us in Arkansas, things like social security, Medicaid," said Pryor. "Folks who truly are living in poverty, they'll be protected here in terms of you won't come in and raid those programs to try to balance the budget."

Pryor said it's important to review everything before balancing a budget.

"If you look at the numbers, it's almost impossible to balance the budget just by cutting spending," said Pryor. "If you're going to really balance the budget, you're going to have to go in and look at the tax code as well, so I think once all the dust settles and people look at the numbers this fall, they'll say, well it's time to look at revenue."

Boozman said he has not yet made a decision to support the bill; however, he is leaning toward approval.

"I think eventually we're going to need to cut a number of things, everything will be on the table, and in order to get an agreement reached, there were certain things that President Obama took off the table," said Boozman. "Right now we're spending a trillion and a half dollars in deficit, you simply can't do that. You have to start spending the money that you make or the money that you receive."

"As far as raising the tax rates, raising taxes on people, I think right now that would be a terrible time to do with the economy the shape it's in now," said Boozman.

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