PARKERSBURG - A battle over raising the debt ceiling may come sooner rather than later, according to a West Virginia congressman.
Rather than March, when the two-month delay in spending cuts expires, the nation may reach the existing $16.4 trillion limit in mid February, Rep. David McKinley, D-1st, said. The budget deal reached earlier this month to avoid the fiscal cliff and delay spending cuts until March also delayed a decision on raising the debt limit, possibly another $2 trillion, he said.
But unchecked spending may require a decision sooner than that, McKinley said.
"We may not be able to wait until March," he said.
The debt this week passed the $16.4 trillion limit set by Congress. Planners estimate it could be a matter of weeks before the government can't cover Social Security checks, federal contracts and the interest on bonds.
McKinley was in Parkersburg on Wednesday to meet with government representatives from Vienna and local union trades to get their opinions on national issues.
Congress earlier this year approved a bill extending the Bush-era tax cuts to individuals and families making less than $400,000 and $450,000 a year, and took action on spending reductions that were to kick in on Jan. 1 had Congress failed to act. McKinley and Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W. Va., who earlier said they supported the income threshold of $1 million in the so-called Plan B the speaker of the House pulled off the table, voted against the bill.
The bill also delayed a decision on the debt ceiling for two months.
Spending cuts will be the issue and the area of contention will be in entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, McKinley said. While he would support defense cuts, those nearing retirement must be assured their benefits will be there as promised, he said.
However, among the proposals being discussed are means testing to determine if someone can be financially excluded from or to allow wealthy Americans to waive their benefits provided they could draw from their individual retirement accounts without paying taxes, he said.
"It's not a mandate, it's a choice," McKinley said.
McKinley said he is a member of the Tea Party caucus and agrees in principle with less government and less spending, but was opposed to a budget proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., because of what he said were "draconian cuts" to programs such as those aiding senior citizens.
A solution won't be easy, McKinley said.
The philosophical divide is immense between the Democrats and Republicans, McKinley said. Democrats believe government spending can create jobs while Republicans believe economic growth is encouraged by the private sector, he said.
"These two ideological giants are fighting each other," McKinley said.