Pete Welch: Business Is On Democratic Side In The Debt Ceiling Fight

May 12, 2011 6:16 a.m.

The debt ceiling fight in Congress is partly about which side is better attuned to the voice of American business. Republicans say business isn’t too worried about the debt fight, and would rather see spending get cut than see the issue of the debt ceiling cleared off the table with a simple up or down vote. Democrats say that’s wrong and insist that business is in fact freaking out as the deadline to raise the borrowing limit approaches.

Earlier this week, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters that Wall Street wasn’t too worried about the debt ceiling fight. The business leaders he talks to, Cantor said, could care less about the looming specter of national default, despite the doom and gloom coming from the White House and economists.

On Wednesday, Democrats pushed back on that idea, hard. Deputy Minority Whip Pete Welch (D-VT) told reporters that businesses couldn’t be more worried about the rhetoric coming from the GOP.“I hope Congressional leaders are listening to the united voice of America’s business community. Their message is clear and unequivocal,” Welch said in a statement. “Do not risk a mid-air stall in our economic recovery; Do not default on America’s obligations; And do not use the debt ceiling as ill-conceived leverage in the essential effort to restore fiscal balance to the federal budget.”

Welch cited a letter written to Congressional leaders by a slew of trade groups, ranging from the the Independent Bakers Association to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The letter called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling, and to do it before something bad happens.

“[We] respectfully urge you to raise the federal debt limit,” the letter reads. “We strongly agree that the failure to increase the statutory debt limit in a timely fashion could have a significant and long-lasting negative impact on the U.S. economy.”

The trade groups also see the need for serious reductions in the national debt, though unlike Cantor’s Wall Street contacts, they’d rather not see the nation taken to the brink of default to get the budget back in balance.

“[W]e remain extremely concerned about the level of the federal debt and large annual budget deficits and remain committed to working with you and the Administration to address our Nation’s fiscal challenges,” the groups write. “Tough calls on U.S. spending must be made as part of a debate about the budget and we agree that restoring balance to our fiscal position will require that the government spend less and spend more wisely.”

Welch said the letter proves Democrats are on the right side of the debt ceiling battle.

“Congress and the President should negotiate – not default,” he said. “The nation’s business leaders are watching.”

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