Brooklynites worried about the nation’s in-limbo financial state after Friday evening’s congressional sessions sent Republicans and Democrats back to the drawing board for a compromise on the country’s debt ceiling plan.
Early Friday evening, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed Speaker John Boehner's plan to raise the national debt ceiling and cut spending by a narrow 218-210, only to have the plan predictably smacked down by the Democrat-controlled Senate in a 59-41 to put the measure on hold.
"I can't believe congress is seriously considering defaulting," said Brooklyn Heights resident Adam Lynn. "I think it's pathetic and I can't believe it's even a debate. Even the senate plan is something that I as a liberal would never support."
Others uged the government to hurry up and work out a compromise plan soon.
"I think that they totally need to raise the debt ceiling," said Lara Kinner, 31, a social science researcher who lives in Crown Heights. "We have a major jobs crisis and you need to be spending more money not less money on things that will create jobs like improving the infrastructure."
President Barack Obama has urged both sides to reach a compromise before Monday evening, at which point the government would default on the country’s $14.3 trillion debt. Obama has continuously stated that Boehner’s plan, which would require both a balanced budget amendment and the a second debt ceiling vote before the next election, has "has no chance of becoming law.”
The plan, though, will remain the Republican negotiating standpoint in debt talks leading up to Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has for his part pushed his own plan to raise the debt limit.
If the government does fail to reach a compromise by Monday evening, the resulting government default could cause unprecedented national financial problems, from rising interest rates and a tanking stock market to a decline in the value of the dollar. The country would be unable to meet about 40 percent of its debt obligations if a default does occur.
So far, both Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed that any deal should include spending reductions in the long term, but neither side can agree on the specifics or timing of spending reductions.
“Republicans are hell bent on bringing down our country just to destroy one man. This is extremist politics at its worst,” said Councilmember Letitia James, D-Prospect Heights. “As the clock ticks, now is the time for reason, rational thought and reality to set in. Politics is about the art of compromise.”
A default would also likely impact federal payments to local governments, which local politicians have said would likely impact the city budget, potentially even forcing mid-year cuts to the current budget, which was passed last month. Already, the city faced many difficult decisions in passing this year’s budget, narrowly escaping the necessity to shut down 20 firehouses citywide and lay off hundreds of teachers.
"It is unfortunate that the division along party lines has prevented members of Congress from working diligently and responsibly with President Obama to find a long-term solution to tackle America's debt,” said 57th District Leader Olanike Alabi.
“While federal entitlement programs have been identified as the problem, we have not sought to have corporations and millionaires pay their fair share in taxes," Alabi said. "My hope is that Americans, from New York to California and from Michigan to Texas will continue to jam the phone lines of their Congressional representatives until negotiations yield a favorable solution."
Amy Sara Clark and Georgia Kral contributed reporting.