WASHINGTON — As Congress braces for another debt-ceiling fight, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) told constituents the nation’s credit rating would actually be better if the United States defaulted on its debt.
Speaking at a town hall Monday in Orange Park, Fla., Yoho, who recently made news for calling an Obamacare tanning tax “racist” and expressing support for the birther movement, was asked about his position on raising the nation’s borrowing limit. He said he would not vote in favor of a debt ceiling increase, a response that was met with applause.
The Florida Republican and tea partier went on to explain that only a few business owners have told him it’s imperative for the government to pay its bills, then he argued that the country would benefit from a “major reset.” From a recording provided by someone who attended the town hall, but wanted to remain anonymous because they recorded it without permission:
Two years, five years from now we’re gonna say the same thing … And it’s going to happen over and over again. It’s like groundhog day, it’s a bad movie. And they said, “What’s your great plan?” And I’ll probably get in trouble, beat up in the paper over this … I say, You know what, I know we need the money, and I’m gonna pay it, I’m just not paying you today, and we’ll pay you with interest, but we need to do a major reset and look at us internally, and say we can’t afford this …
… And so they say that would rock the market, capital would leave, the stock market would crash, interest rates would go up. I said, “Let me give you my feeling: Interest rates are gonna go up anyways. They went up the last time they raised the debt ceiling, interest rates went up … because we’re not dealing with the problem. We’re putting another Tylenol to the problem. And that’s not [an ad] for Tylenol.” So let’s just address the problem, and I think if we address it, I think the creditors that we owe money to around the world would say, “you know what, they’re getting their house in order.” And I think our credit rating would do better, if we did that than face the mass [sic] program we’ve been up to … There are several of us that we’re not raising the debt ceiling; don’t ask us. We don’t have a money problem, we have a spending problem.
Yoho spokesman Omar Raschid said Thursday that the recording is consistent with the representative’s message.
Yoho’s position is no surprise — he was one of 33 Republicans who voted against the short-term debt limit extension that passed the House of Representatives in January. At the time, the congressman defended his vote by simply noting the government needed to be held accountable for its spending levels.
But Yoho’s latest comments put him in the category of default deniers — lawmakers who reject the idea that a failure to raise the debt limit would lead to economic catastrophe. Economists have long warned, however, that the consequences of default are far more severe. They include a delay in Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits, collapse in prices for Treasury bonds resulting in record high interest rates, and a stock market plunge that could trigger a recession. When partisan bickering led to an impasse over raising the debt ceiling in 2011, the U.S. credit rating was downgraded by rating agency Standard Poor’s.
Most Americans also fear economic calamity if Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit, according to polling. House Republicans have nonetheless foreshadowed a battle this fall, with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) insisting on spending cuts in exchange for a debt-limit increase.
The White House has maintained that President Barack Obama will not negotiate on the subject.
In recent weeks, Obama has embarked on a campaign-like tour to refocus the debate on the economy and rally the country around his policy proposals ahead of budget negotiations in September. At multiple stops throughout the country, the president has accused House Republicans of “constant gridlock” and called on them to abandon threats to shut down the government or toy with default.
“We’ve seen a sizable group of Republican lawmakers suggest they wouldn’t vote to pay the very bills that Congress rang up — a fiasco that harmed a fragile recovery in 2011, and one we can’t afford to repeat,” Obama said in July. “Then, rather than reduce our deficits with a scalpel — by cutting programs we don’t need, fixing ones we do, and making government more efficient — this same group has insisted on leaving in place a meat cleaver called the sequester that has cost jobs, harmed growth, hurt our military, and gutted investments in American education and scientific and medical research that we need to make this country a magnet for good jobs.”
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We Mean It… Smile!
It’s not often we see Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) crack a smile. He dons his go-to straight face most of the time. Ahead, see the rare grins of the Kentucky senator.
(Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)
McConnell Cracks A CPAC Smile
McConnell waves as he arrives to speak at the 40th annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
Happy To Hang With Obama
President Barack Obama is greeted by McConnell as he arrives at the U.S. Captiol for his third day of meetings with members of Congress March 14, 2013. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Leaving The Senate, McConnell Smirks
McConnell leaves the Senate chamber to caucus in the US Capitol Dec. 30, 2012. (Molly Riley/AFP/Getty Images)
Smiley Senate Exit
McConnell leaves his office and walks toward the Senate floor on Capitol Hill March 22, 2013. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Ready For His Close Up
McConnell tours the stage during preparations at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Aug 26, 2012. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)
A Smile And A Hug
McConnell greets US President Barack Obama following Obama’s address to a Joint Session of Congress about the US economy and job creation Sept. 8, 2011. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
McConnell Happily Takes To The Podium
McConnell smiles as he speaks to the press with fellow Republican senators John Barroso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas at the Capitol Aug. 2, 2011. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
McConnell gives the the thumbs-up as he walks to the Senate floor after a deal was reached to avert a US default at the Capitol in Washington July 31, 2011. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Sworn In And Smiling
McConnell is sworn in by Vice President Dick Cheney as his wife Labor Secretary Elaine Chao holds the Bible during a swearing in reenactment ceremony at the US Capitol Jan. 6, 2009. (KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)
Smiling On Stage At RNC
McConnell smiles during sound check at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, Fla., Aug 27, 2012. (Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty)
McConnell laughs with Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson at the annual ham breakfast at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, Ky., in 2010. (AP Photo/Ed Reinke)
McConnell Laughs Some More
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) jokes with reporters as McConnell, laughs in the Ohio Clock Corridor following the Senate Republicans’ policy lunch in June 21, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)
Lots Of Laughing
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), McConnell, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), share a laugh during news conference in the Capitol after a meeting of Senate Republicans, Feb. 8, 2012. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)