'Economically catastrophic' to delay raising debt ceiling, warns top Democrat

Democratic budget leader Rep. Chris Van Hollen urges that the national debt ceiling be raised as part of the year-end talks to avoid the 'fiscal cliff,' rather than waiting until late winter to address it.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D) of Maryland speaks at the Dec. 12 Monitor Breakfast in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee and the House Democratic leadership's liaison to the budget negotiations between Speaker John Boehner and President Obama. Representative Van Hollen was the guest at the Dec. 12 Monitor Breakfast.

Passing a budget deal without a majority of House Republicans:

"The biggest impediment [to a budget deal] right now is the speaker's ability to get a decent number of Republican votes for an agreement.... One way to get this done ... [would be] if the speaker was willing to bring to the floor of the House a bill that did not necessarily get a majority of Republican votes."

One reason for the slow pace of budget talks:

"I'm getting increasingly concerned that one of the reasons the speaker is deciding to ... string out these discussions is that he wants to wait till Jan. 3, when the election for speaker takes place. And he's concerned that any agreement he reaches [without support of a majority of Republicans] could undermine support for him in his caucus and make it more difficult on Jan. 3."

Why he wants the debt ceiling raised as part of a year-end budget deal:

"Fooling around with the debt ceiling obviously is economically catastrophic."

The legacy of the current Congress:

"The 112th Congress ... as judged by the American people, and also judged by overall work product, has been one of the least productive Congresses certainly in recent history."

Odds for Democrats to regain control of the House in 2014:

"Republicans used the redistricting process to their favor.... I don't think that is going to overcome the fact that the positions they have staked out on issues are so far to the extreme right of where the American people are that Democrats have a big opening with independent voters."

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