Sen. Rand Paul: U.S. Debt 'Number One Threat to Our Country'

By Nicholas Ballasy | June 30, 2011 | 4:01am EDT

( – Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) met with other Republican senators on Wednesday to explain why they are pushing for a balanced budget amendment in their negotiations with Democrats over increasing the federal debt limit, which currently is $14.29 trillion, stressing that the primary “threat to our country is the national debt.”

At the Capitol, Paul said, “Our country is in grave danger. The number one threat to our country is the national debt.

“I firmly believe we will not ever surmount our fiscal problems until we amend the Constitution,” said Paul. “We must have a balanced budget amendment, and I hope the Democrats will join us.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the GOP push for a balanced budget amendment was a “good first step” in the negotiations over raising the debt ceiling.

“Our view is: A good first step is a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution,” said McConnell. “It’s pretty clear that, regardless of what we are ultimately able to negotiate here in the short-term, that we put the federal government in this kind of fiscal straight jacket for the future so that we cannot get into this position again.”

The debt limit is the amount of money the federal government can legally borrow. The amount is voted on by Congress and signed into law by the president. The current legal limit on the federal debt, $14.294 trillion, was signed into law by President Obama in February 2010. The federal government bumped up against that debt limit on May 16.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is the lead sponsor of the balanced budget amendment, which has the support of all 47 Republican senators.

“A balanced budget amendment is simply the best way to cut out the smoke and mirrors when it comes to federal budgeting,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “We all know we are spending about 40 cents out of every dollar of borrowed money and the primary purchaser of our debt is China, which owns about a third of our national debt.”

“This is, as Admiral [Mike] Mullen said, the number one threat to our national security – our debt is,” said Cornyn.

Senate Rules and Administration Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered his response to the Senate Republicans’ effort at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“First, practice what you preach,” he said. “The Ryan budget [in the House] had, I believe, $9 trillion dollars in deficits. It did not balance the budget. Second, we did it, we balanced the budget under, when Bill Clinton was president – practice what you preach – and third, there are all kinds of different balanced budget amendments.”

Schumer continued, “The balanced budget amendment they’re introducing, I’m told, gives a real break to very wealthy people because it would be much harder to get them to chip in a fair share, and it is going to focus on the middle class and pain on the middle class.”

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said the deficits under Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) proposal “would be around 2 percent of GDP in the 2020s and would decline during the 2030s. The budget would be in surplus by 2040 and show growing surpluses in the following decade. Federal debt would equal about 48 percent of GDP by 2040 and 10 percent by 2050.”

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said lawmakers must raise the debt limit by Aug. 2 or the government will default and may fall into another recession or even an economic depression.

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