Welch drums up support for raising debt ceiling

Rep. Peter Welch gathered up 186 signatures from his fellow Democrats in the House in a public showing of support for President Barack Obama, ahead of Congress’ debate over the debt ceiling.

Welch held a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday, along with Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats, to unveil their letter to Obama.

It states: “We appreciate your strong leadership on this issue and share your view that defaulting on our obligations would cause immediate and irreparable harm to America’s economy. We will support a clean extension of the debt ceiling when the House takes up this issue.”

Welch organized a similar letter in 2011, when Congress was embroiled in the same situation.

In Vermont, meanwhile, the Republican and Democratic parties are trading spars in defense of their national counterparts and their roles in the slightly more imminent threat of a government shutdown.

To avoid a shutdown, the Senate and House have to agree on a budget bill. The House passed a bill that would temporarily maintain government funding, but it also cuts funding for the Affordable Care Act. The Senate, which voted to take up the bill today, is expected to strip out that proposal.

Beyond the threat of a shutdown, Republicans have also sought to tie an increase in the debt ceiling — a necessary step in order to avoid a default — to entitlement cuts and an Obamacare rollback.

Deborah Bucknam, the acting chair of the Vermont Republican Party, told Vermont Public Radio’s Bob Kinzel Tuesday, that Democrats were to blame for the looming government shutdown.

“The majority of the American people are not in favor of Obamacare so the Republicans are on the American people’s side. And the Democrats are saying we’re not going to even talk to you. So I think that’s a problem,” Bucknam told Kinzel. “I think it’s the Democrats who are by saying we will not compromise are the ones that are pushing this toward a government shutdown. They’re the ones who are saying it’s all or nothing. So it certainly is their responsibility.”

Those comments prompted a rebuttal from the Vermont Democratic Party Wednesday. Executive director Julia Barnes released the following statement, and described Bucknam’s comments as “outrageous.”

“Republicans have set this country on the path to a costly government shutdown, holding imperative programs hostage in a last-ditch effort to defund the Affordable Care Act, something they have repeatedly failed at,” said Barnes. “The GOP’s unpopular and misguided stance could cost us billions, delay compensation for our troops, prevent Social Security claims from being processed, and suspend the approval of applications for small business loans. This is the last thing we need in our recovering economy.”

“Even with the announcement today that under Obamacare premiums nationwide are expected to be around 16% lower than originally predicted, this worn-out Tea Party rhetoric continues. Bucknam is plain wrong in thinking that Americans stand with the GOP in defunding Obamacare. In fact, a majority oppose defunding, especially in the face of a government shutdown.”

Both parties have a strong incentive to deflect blame — a New York Times/CBS poll shows eight out of 10 Americans view using the threat of a government shutdown for political means as unacceptable

Alicia Freese

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