Michiganders split on federal debt debate

As Congress struggles to reach an agreement on raising the federal debt ceiling, some Michigan residents are sending letters demanding that senior programs be left untouched while others are telling lawmakers not to raise the ceiling at all. The conflicting messages came Tuesday as Congress and the White House raced to meet an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the ceiling and avoid a potential government default that could send the already weak economy into a swoon that damages the nation's credit rating.
AP Wire
Jul 27, 2011

AARP Michigan leaders said they plan to deliver nearly 52,000 petition signatures from members and local constituents to the district offices of Michigan’s 15 congressional members this week asking them not to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of any deal to reduce the nation’s deficit. Nearly 2 million state residents rely on Social Security and 1.6 million receive Medicare benefits.

“We are proud to deliver the real voices of people who live here in Michigan who are united in their opposition to cutting the hard-earned benefits that they have paid into for their retirement for any debt deal,” Randall Bachman, AARP Michigan advocacy volunteer from Northville, said in a release. “These petitions represent Democrats, Republicans and independents who oppose any cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits as part of any deal to pay the nation’s bills.”

Ninth District GOP Chairwoman Theresa Mungioli, meanwhile, e-mailed a “call to action” to southeast Michigan Republicans Tuesday urging them to contact U.S. Reps. Mike Rogers, Gary Peters and Thad McCotter, and tell them to vote against raising the debt ceiling. Rogers and McCotter are Republicans, while Peters is a Democrat.

“We cannot take our country further into debt without significant spending cuts,” Mungioli wrote. “This is a critical vote on the future of our country. Now is the time for each of us to ‘Light Up the Phones’ and call our congressman!”

Most congressional leaders have said they don’t want the country to default on its debt and continue to work on different deals to be voted on later this week. If the deadline passes, checks for Social Security recipients, military pensioners, federal workers and companies holding federal contracts could halt.

Michigan Budget Director John Nixon said he expects Congress and the White House to raise the debt ceiling by the deadline since so much is on the line. But if they don’t, Michigan and other states could find themselves unable to get federal reimbursements for Medicaid payments, education funds and other programs that get federal money, such as welfare. Many cash-strapped states could have trouble making up the lost federal payments, even temporarily.

“If the federal government said, ‘We’re going to stop sending money out,’ all the states are going, ‘Wait a minute. How are we going to keep things moving — how are we going to pay our bills,”’ said Nixon, who’s also president of the National Association of State Budget Directors.

“If that happens, it would be pretty dire ... in that you’ve got all of these programs that we’ve got immediately to start scaling back,” he added. “That would be very difficult to do.”

Gov. Rick Snyder’s office said it hopes for a resolution soon.

“We’re confident that this will get resolved as the stakes are so high and the effects would be felt by our state, country and world,” Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said in an e-mail message to The Associated Press.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has proposed a short-term bill that would cut spending by about $1.2 trillion and extend the debt ceiling for about six months. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, has proposed a plan that would reduce deficits by about $2.7 trillion over 10 years through spending cuts while raising the debt ceiling enough so that it wouldn’t have to be reconsidered until 2013, beyond the 2012 elections, as demanded by Democratic President Barack Obama.

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