WASHINGTON — Standard and Poor’s recent downgrading of the nation’s credit rating due to political stubbornness is being met in Washington with political stubbornness.
Republicans and Democrats continue to blame each other for S&P’s move.
The financial rating firm based in New York cited the political rancor over the debt and deficit agreement as one of the reasons for cutting the nation’s top AAA rating by one notch to AA-plus.
Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, criticized the White House and Democrats in the Senate for the bad mark from S&P.
“As I said when I voted against it, and the S&P acknowledged when they made the downgrade, the Washington debt deal initiated by the Senate and signed into law by the president did not do enough to end the government’s addiction to spending,” Landry said.
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, didn’t wait until Monday. He put his news release out blasting Democrats on Saturday, the day after the S&P announcement.
“The unprecedented downgrade of the U.S. credit rating is a resounding indictment of President Obama’s failed extreme liberal agenda that has run millions of jobs out of our country due to job-killing taxes, rampant out of control spending and radical policies like the President’s health care law,” Scalise said.
S&P said in a statement last week that the deal fashioned by Congress and President Barack Obama did not go far enough and that the policymaking was not stable enough to meet the problems.
“The downgrade reflects our view,” the S&P stated, “that the effectiveness, stability, and predictability of American policymaking and political institutions have weakened at a time of ongoing fiscal and economic challenges …”
Obama was not absent from veiled criticism of Republicans. Though not mentioning the party by name, the President said that the S&P downgrade can be partly blamed on “a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology.”
Obama said: “We knew from the outset that the prolonged debate over the debt ceiling — a debate where the threat of default was used as a bargaining chip — could do enormous damage to our economy and the world’s.”
Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming, of Minden, blamed the downgrade on Obama’s “crazy socialist policies.” He accused Democrats of trying to appease the masses by throwing federal funding at them.
“They painted themselves in the corner,” Fleming said. “S&P is saying you can’t keep going in that direction.”
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., has taken the Obama tactic of not mentioning Republicans but has pointedly called positions the GOP has espoused, such as opposing tax revenues, as wrong.
“The decision by the S&P is a strong message that there are consequences for holding the U.S. economy hostage and putting rigid ideology ahead of comprehensive, balanced and sensible approach to tackling our long-term debt problem,” said Landrieu, who was traveling the state Thursday.
Though the rating agency cited “political brinkmanship,” Scalise said Thursday that they also pointed to the second half of the equation, the need to get the federal debt and deficit addressed.
Scalise voted against the final agreement, which he noted was bipartisan.
“We can spend a lot of time talking about whether we can get along but the real issue is whether we solve the problem and so far we haven’t,” Scalise said. “We’re spending money we don’t have.”
Americans shouldn’t be surprised by the political infighting with a Republican House and Democrats in the Senate and White House, said U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman. Republicans passed two budget bills that would have helped address the problem, he said.
“That’s the way it is,” Alexander said about Republican and Democratic angst. “It’s always been a percentage of the right not wanting to compromise and a percentage of the left not wanting to compromise.”
Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, of Lafayette, said any consternation between the administration or parties in Congress is taking away from what should be the real focus: jobs.
“Congress has to get serious and the president needs to get serious about solving the debt problem and taking measures that allow private sector growth and job creation,” Boustany said.
The differences between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans can’t be ignored, said U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge. Republicans oppose Obama’s call for new tax revenues.
“It reminds me of that saying that the beatings will continue until morale improves,” Cassidy said. “There is a difference in philosophy.”
Americans did not have to hear from a credit rating agency about the political infighting going on in Washington, said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution in Washington.
But Hess, who has tracked Congress since the Eisenhower administration, sees the current struggle unique in that the freshmen who are aligned with tea parties are wielding such political influence, he said.
“They did present a ‘my way or the highway,’ which is not generally the way we play in this city,” Hess said.
Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, sees no end to the fighting, which he predicts will last at least until election day next year.
“We’re not very good at solving problems these days,” Sabato said. “The nation’s political parties and leaders have perfected the art of finger pointing.”