Sen. Tom Carper on Debt Ceiling: What Are Republicans Smoking?

May 19, 2011 1:31pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein (@rickklein) reports: With the nation blowing past its debt limit this week, some Republican lawmakers are suggesting that it might behoove the United States to keep it in pace – even if that means defaulting on the nation’s debt.

We asked Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., about a comment by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., that defaulting on the debt could benefit the nation “in the short and long term” because it “forces politicians to make decisions.”

“When I hear people say stuff like that, I wonder what they’re smoking,” Carper, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, told us. “And it’s not something that’s legal — well, it could be.”

“What would happen is the folks who lend us money from around the world and from this country are going to ask for more money. They’re going to ask for a lot more money. In order to finance and refinance our debt, it’ll cost us hundreds of billions of dollars. And we’ve got to be smarter than to see that happen.”

Carper said he thinks Congress will wind up approving a small debt increase, or more than one small increase, as talks continue around a long-term budget deal that the White House can sign off on.

“Ultimately we would use the vote on raising the deficit ceiling to drive a deal on a long-term deficit-reduction deal — something in the neighborhood of $4 trillion over 10 years,” he said. “Finally, hopefully before Christmas, before Thanksgiving, before Halloween, we’ll be able to come up with a deal that focuses on spending, does at least $4 trillion over 10 years. Maybe two-thirds on the spending side.”

Carper, who traveled recently to the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, also said he hopes the killing of Osama bin Laden will prompt a reexamination of U.S. policy in the war in Afghanistan.

“We’re actually kicking the other guys’ rear ends,” he said. “Two steps forward one step back. So it’s not an easy deal. The real key though, the real key in Afghanistan isn’t just our military efforts, it isn’t just our civilian efforts.  The real key, actually, is trying to get Pakistan and India to move towards normalized relations. And to take Afghanistan out of sort of like a proxy fight. They’re like collateral damage.”

Carper also recalled running against Christine O’Donnell for Senate in 2006 – and touted a move this summer to allow drivers in Interstate 95 in Delaware to go through toll readers at highway speed with E-ZPass transponders.

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