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Veteran Oklahoma lawmakers differ on potential fallout from breaching debt ceiling

While Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, is downplaying the potential for default on the nation's obligations, Rep. Tom Cole — also from Oklahoma — says it would be a big deal.
by Chris Casteel Modified: October 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm •  Published: October 10, 2013

As the White House deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling nears, two veteran Oklahoma lawmakers have expressed vastly different viewpoints this week on the potential consequences of failure to approve more borrowing.

In a speech on the Senate floor and in media interviews, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, has dismissed the risk of defaulting on the nation's debts and downplayed the effects of breaching the debt ceiling.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, countered Wednesday that not raising the debit limit would be “a big deal.”

The current standoff over funding the federal government has effectively merged with the always contentious issue of raising the debt limit so more money can be borrowed to pay creditors and meet financial obligations.

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has warned that his department will not have enough money on Oct. 17 to pay all of the bills due, and President Barack Obama has called on Congress to raise the debt limit.

“There's no magic wand that allows us to wish away the chaos that could result if, for the first time in our history, we don't pay our bills on time,” Obama said at a news conference on Tuesday.

“And when I hear people trying to downplay the consequences of that, I think that's really irresponsible ... And it's particularly funny coming from Republicans who claim to be champions of business. There's no businessperson out here who thinks this wouldn't be a big deal.”

Coburn says default won't happen

Coburn has been waiting for this fight. In fact, he has said Republicans should have called for defunding the Affordable Care Act during debt ceiling negotiations rather than on the resolution to keep the government operating.

In an interview on the Fox Business channel on Tuesday, Coburn said the government might miss some payments but “might actually start living within our means” and cut wasteful spending.

Asked about how the financial markets might react to breaching the debt limit, Coburn said, “If we don't increase the debt limit, the markets will go down.

“And as soon as we solve this problem, the market will go back up ... But the point is the underlying economic fundamentals are not going to change significantly with us doing that.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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