Montana Delegation Reacts to Debt Rating Downgrade

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Montana congressional delegation, reacting to a rating agency’s decision to downgrade the credit rating of long-term U.S. debt, remained at odds over how to deal with the federal spending deficit.

Standard & Poor’s largely blamed “the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties” in reaching its decision late Friday, which resulted in turmoil Monday in the financial markets.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said he agreed the news demonstrated that party differences need to be put aside — but the Democrat placed much of the blame on the Republican House.

“The dysfunction back there — and its consequences — are driven by an incredibly irresponsible agenda in the House where instead of real and responsible spending cuts, some are casting ‘protest votes’ and pushing to cut Medicare in order to protect tax loopholes for the wealthy,” Tester said.

Both he and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus favor a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases in order to bridge the spending gulf. The Democrats singled out the wealthy and corporations perceived to be unpopular in calling for a “balanced” approach.

“That means tightening the belt on spending and making tough cuts without eating our seed corn,” Baucus said in a statement. “It also means raising revenue by closing taxpayer-funded giveaways to billionaires, oil companies and corporate jet owners and making sure we cut deficits while we do all we can to create jobs.”

Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg — locked in a race to take Tester’s Senate seat — also didn’t back away from partisanship in the wake of the downgrade which chiefly cited the inability of the political sides reach a deal either on spending cuts or revenue increases.

Rehberg said the solution is a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The downgrade of America’s credit is a direct result of the failed policies of the big spenders in Washington, D.C.,” Rehberg said in a statement. “Time and time again, Washington has turned to bailouts and so-called stimulus programs which have done nothing but lead to trillion dollar deficits.”