Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, were joined today by all of their Republican colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee in sending a letter to President Obama denouncing the president’s rhetoric during a recent media blitz suggesting that Republicans in Congress want the country to default on the debt. In an interview last week with CNBC’s John Harwood, the president stated that he recently told representatives from the financial sector visiting Washington that “they should be concerned” over a faction of Congress that is “willing potentially to default.” The president’s senior advisors have continued the rhetoric over the past several days.
The senators write: “We are writing to express our concern that such comments are unproductive and misguided. Any statements by you or other senior administration officials – whether to Wall Street or Main Street – that express the belief that America will default on its debt are not only misleading in our view, but they threaten to destabilize financial markets and could raise borrowing costs for families and small businesses.”
Joining Thune and Hatch in their letter were Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), and Pat Toomey (R-Penn.).
The text of the senators’ letter is below:
October 9, 2013
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We were greatly disappointed to hear your recent comments to CNBC’s John Harwood that you believe that Republicans in Congress are willing to default on our debt obligations by not raising the statutory debt limit. Specifically, you stated that you recently told representatives from the financial sector visiting Washington that “they should be concerned” over a faction of Congress that is “willing potentially to default.”
We are writing to express our concern that such comments are unproductive and misguided. Any statements by you or other senior administration officials – whether to Wall Street or Main Street – that express the belief that America will default on its debt are not only misleading in our view, but they threaten to destabilize financial markets and could raise borrowing costs for families and small businesses.
The assertion that Congressional Republicans are willing to default on our debt could not be further from the truth. Speaker Boehner and other House Republican leaders have stated repeatedly that America cannot and will not default on its debt obligations. As Senate Republicans, we affirm this view. Any talk of default is counterproductive. It creates greater uncertainty and drives policymakers further away from reaching a bipartisan, common-sense agreement. While some may perceive talk of default as just poorly timed political rhetoric, it is possible that our financial markets could continue to take such comments at face value. As you know, this could have negative consequences on millions of families who have made prudent investments and could impact America’s ability to finance its debt at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.
Rather than stoking fears that could destabilize financial markets and hurt investors, we believe now is the time to make a significant down payment on addressing America’s long-term debt problems. Debt held by the public has increased by 90 percent over the past four and a half years and will continue to increase for the foreseeable future. As Congress and the executive branch have routinely done in the past, now is the time to work together on solutions that reduce our deficits and move our economy forward.
We agree with your other statements last week that we should focus on “creating jobs, encouraging growth, [and] dealing with our long-term debt issues.” We stand ready to work with you to find reasonable measures that begin to address America’s long-term fiscal imbalance as part of a solution to the current impasse.Sincerely,