The U.S. Debt Crisis: Can Congress Reach a Solution?


Tea Party groups "are playing a very big role because they see the raising of the debt ceiling as a lever to achieve some significant cutbacks in government spending," Reaser said. "So they are using that as a hostage in this debate."

Tea Party leaders that helped bring many conservatives to power are anxious to see swift changes, and they say time is running out for action.

"Somebody needs to man up and make the tough decisions that need to be made," said Amy Kremer, chair of the Tea Party Express. "I didn't expect them to come in and change it overnight, but they just continue to kick the can down the road and everybody's losing patience."

Kremer and other fiscal conservatives are calling for bolder cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, even if that means pain in the short term.

"We don't want to give things up, but we don't want to go bankrupt either. Everybody across the board is having to give a little bit because that's what these economic times are about," she said. "The money has run out and they can't keep putting it on the printing presses."

The Tea Party's influence could make negotiations more challenging, especially if the two parties and Obama cannot find a middle ground on how to cut entitlement programs.

So far though, there is a lack of urgency, some say, especially from the president, who has been silent on specific steps that he would support.

The fight over the nation's debt is an old one, but "the new thing is how long it's dragging on without a resolution," Swagel said. "The newness is sort of how close we're getting to actually hitting the debt ceiling before action is taken."

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