Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, today criticized Congressman Steve King and other Republican who say the federal government can continue to pay its debts without raising its debt limit. “I mean that is just bizarre. For example I heard Congressman King say ‘oh we can service the debt’,” Harkin says. “Yeah we can pay the interest on it, but how about paying off the bondholder?”
Harkin says the government is redeeming bonds every day to pay Social Security obligations and the money will eventually run out. He says Republicans are wrong to say the president can take action with the money that is available. “And I heard Congressman King this morning say ‘well the president can prioritize.’ Well okay, what do you mean?,” Harkin asked, “he’s gonna pay Social Security, the bonds that are held by China we tell them to go take a hike? The bonds that’re held by Canada we tell them to go take a hike.”
Harkin says he would not want King or other Republicans handling his finances. “What financial universe did he come from? This is not how the country operates. And he should sit down…he can pick any financial expert he wants in the country to explain to him how this system works,” Harkin says. A reporter told Harkin about a report from the Moodys Investment firm that says the government could still service the debt and pay interest without raising the debt limit.
Harkin says he will have to look at the report, but says the government can’t operate long term this way. “You know we do not have enough money coming in from out tax revenues…to both service the debt, pay those bondholders off every day as those bonds come due, and pay for the functioning of government,” Harkin says.
Harkin made his comments during his weekly conference call with reporters.
Audio: Harkin talks about debt ceiling 6:00