By PETER URBAN
STEPHENS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin on Tuesday defended Republican efforts to cut federal spending to reduce the national debt.
As a new member of the House Ways and Means Committee, Griffin waited several hours for his turn at the microphone during a hearing on the debt ceiling.
Last up, Griffin noted that most of his questions for the panel of economists had been asked and answered. He used his five minutes to reaffirm the GOP position that federal spending cuts – and not tax increases – are needed to reduce the long-term debt.
"We just had an agreement here in Congress that raised taxes," said Griffin, R-Little Rock. "And, the bottom line is that the tax increase we got did nothing to impact the deficit with any significance."
Much of the committee hearing was consumed with Democrat and Republican members trading partisan jabs over the deficit.
Republicans focused on the rapid increase in the federal debt over the last four years, which has now reached $16.4 trillion. The House plans to vote Wednesday on legislation that would allow the federal government to keep borrowing beyond the limit for three more months.
Democrats blamed the debt on spending associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tax cuts approved during the Bush administration.
Democrats also accused Republicans of engaging in a dangerous game of chicken with the debt ceiling claiming that a federal default would do grave harm to the economy.
"This is a crisis manufactured by Republicans," said Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.
Griffin said that Republicans are not talking about defaulting on federal obligations.
The House has scheduled debate Wednesday on legislation that would allow for additional borrowing through March. It also would penalize lawmakers if they fail to approve a budget in the Senate or House by withholding their paychecks. Republicans in the past have tried to tie dollar-for-dollar spending cuts to increases in the debt ceiling.
The White House has indicated that it would accept a short-term extension of the debt ceiling although it would prefer a long-term solution.
Griffin plans to vote for it.