Politics

Marco Rubio and GOP Challengers to Bill Nelson: Focus on Debt Ceiling

Calling for fiscal restraint, Republicans look to make political hay on the issue
By: Kevin Derby | Posted: May 19, 2011 3:55 AM

With the federal government reaching the debt ceiling earlier in the week, Florida Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio -- and the field of GOP candidates looking to knock off Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson -- weighed in this week, calling for fiscal restraint.

“Today is a sad day for our nation as reaching our debt limit further highlights the failed leadership and reckless spending that has our country heading toward a Greece-like day of reckoning. We are better than that,” said Rubio on Monday.

“We are at a defining moment in our nation’s history, and we must begin to implement fiscal reforms immediately. We must fundamentally reform our tax code, overhaul our regulatory structure, enact spending and debt caps, pass a balanced-budget amendment and save our entitlement programs so they don’t bankrupt themselves and our country. If we fail to accomplish these necessary goals and simply raise our borrowing limit yet again, the world will know America is not serious about tackling this problem. The result will be devastating and our nation’s exceptionalism will be in jeopardy.

“But we must remember that the problems our country faces are solvable,” added Rubio. “If leaders in Washington choose to do what is right rather than what is politically beneficial, we will reverse the course our nation has taken in recent years and begin paving the way for yet another American century.”

With Nelson up for a third term in 2012, the field of Republicans looking to topple him weighed in, calling for the federal government to tighten its belt.

“The federal government will pass its legal borrowing limit of $14.29 trillion today. This limit was established by Congress to prohibit the government from borrowing unsustainable levels of money. Congress is now confronted with the prospect of raising the so-called debt limit for the sixth time since 2006,” noted former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner on Monday night. “Decades of wasteful spending by both parties in Washington have brought us to this point. Yet Washington seems ignorant to the fact that the out-of-control federal debt is part of the reason businesses aren't hiring, jobs aren't growing and Americans are terrified about their economic future.

“How we move past this point, and the kind of changes we make to avoid it in the future, is what matters most right now,” added Hasner. “Conservatives have offered several plans to put an end to reckless borrowing, unsustainable spending, and dangerous and immoral levels of debt. We’ve set sensible conditions, saying Americans should oppose any increase to the debt limit unless it is tied to specific spending cuts, entitlement reforms, and other serious fiscal overhauls.”

Hasner slammed President Barack Obama and the Democrats, claiming they wanted to increase taxes to pay down the debt.

“Our problem isn’t that Americans don’t pay enough in taxes; our problem is that Washington spends money that we do not have,” insisted Hasner. “Restoring economic freedom and prosperity in America begins with stopping borrowing, cutting spending, balancing the budget and attacking the debt.”

The other candidates fighting for the Republican nomination also weighed in on the matter.

Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux released an audio statement on Tuesday in which he addressed the federal government hitting the debt ceiling and highlighted his own credentials and experience.

“This week, the United States hit the $14 trillion plus debt ceiling and Congress is set to raise the debt limit again, adding more debt for our children and grandchildren,” said LeMieux. “Our national debt is increasing by roughly $4 billion every single day and President Obama’s 2012 budget called for a fourth consecutive year of trillion-dollar deficits.”

LeMieux also took aim at Nelson.

“You and I know the current path in Washington is not sustainable, but Senator Nelson thinks that we need to increase the debt ceiling, even without securing significant spending cuts,” continued LeMieux. “This is not the leadership Floridians need. We need bold, responsible leaders who will get to work to save America and stop this out-of-control spending.

“As your senator, I would vote for significant spending cuts and to balance the budget, even if we have to shut the federal government down to do so,” continued LeMieux as he touched on his 16-month tenure in the U.S. Senate. “You can trust me in this fight because I am the only candidate for U.S. Senate, Republican or Democrat, who has not requested earmarks and participated in the type of out-of-control spending plaguing Washington.”

Senate President Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island released a 5-minute video on Tuesday for his bid for the Republican nomination in which he quickly touched on the national debt spiraling out of control. He followed up on Wednesday and stressed his opposition to raising the debt ceiling.

"I oppose raising the debt ceiling at this time,” Haridopolos told Sunshine State News on Wednesday. “Congress and the president have acted with incredible irresponsibility in driving up huge deficits that are killing our economy and our national security. We cannot trust them with yet another blank check."

Retired Army officer and businessman Mike McCalister, who took more than 10 percent in the Republican gubernatorial primary, is also running in the Senate primary. He spoke to Sunshine State News on Wednesday and said the issue was very complex.

McCalister said that the fact the federal government reached the debt ceiling showed the need for a constitutionally mandated balanced budget.

“We need a balanced budget amendment,” said McCalister. “Prevention is the best cure.”

McCalister said raising the debt ceiling should be done only as an “absolute last resort” to prevent default or undermining the economy. He insisted that there were other alternatives.

“We have to look at every option,” said McCalister, adding that Social Security and veterans’ benefits should never be impacted. He called for cutting spending, deferring payment to vendors who are late or have not provided promised services. “If there is anything that can be cut that isn’t absolutely necessary, I would cut it.”


Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.


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