WASHINGTON – A federal default could cost New York taxpayers $2 billion, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo warned Wednesday, as the nation inched a day closer to being unable to pay its bills and as a federal government shutdown entered its ninth day.
If the nation were to reach its debt ceiling and lose its ability to borrow to cover previously incurred expenses, the resulting blows to the financial markets, consumer confidence and government spending would undo much of the economic progress the state has made in recent years, the governor warned.
“Congressional dysfunction has already hurt New York and the nation’s economies by fueling a lack of consumer confidence nationwide,” Cuomo said. “Jeopardizing our full faith and credit is a new level of recklessness and irresponsibility that would have dire consequences and could cause irreparable damage to our economy.”
Cuomo’s warning came on another day of paralysis in Washington that featured several developments:
President Obama invited House Republicans to the White House today to discuss the situation; the White House scrambled to ensure that military death benefits get paid; and Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, led the GOP’s attacks on “Obamacare.”
Collins chaired a House subcommittee hearing on Obamacare’s impact on small business, and afterward, he downplayed the dangers of default.
“The bigger risk we have than default is a runaway debt that makes our credit rating go in the tank and interest rates start to skyrocket,” he said.
“No one knows what would happen if we went through the debt ceiling, but what I know in my heart of hearts is that if we don’t deal with the deficit, some number of years down the road we’re going to be paying a big penalty, as people wouldn’t want to lend us money.”
That’s not how Cuomo sees it.
“New York is the epicenter of the financial services industry, which is still recovering from one of the most cataclysmic periods in its history,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “A default of federal debt would reverse the progress that has been made and impact Wall Street profitability, employee compensation and, as a result, state revenues.”
Meanwhile, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., revealed what appears to be a Republican division over the debt ceiling issue, saying in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that the debt limit must be raised.
Doing so should be part of a larger package to address the nation’s fiscal issues, he said in the essay – which never mentions Obamacare, the issue that drove House Republicans to force the government shutdown and, until now at least, a key issue in the debate over the debt ceiling as well.
“We need to open the federal government. We need to pay our bills today – and make sure we can pay our bills tomorrow,” Ryan wrote. “So let’s negotiate an agreement to make modest reforms to entitlement programs and the tax code.”
Ryan will get his chance to press that point to Obama today. Ryan is one of 18 House leaders who will be going to the White House to discuss the budget and debt ceiling issues.
Obama originally invited all House Republicans to the White House, but House Speaker John Boehner opted to instead send a smaller delegation of House leaders.
That decision disappointed the president, said White House press secretary Jay Carney.
“The president thought it was important to talk directly with the members who forced this economic crisis on the country about how the shutdown and a failure to pay the country’s bills could devastate the economy,” Carney said in a statement.
Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Boehner, defended the decision to send the smaller delegation.
“Nine days into a government shutdown and a week away from breaching the debt ceiling, a meeting is only worthwhile if it is focused on finding a solution,” Buck said in a statement. “That’s why the House Republican Conference will instead be represented by a smaller group of negotiators.”
House Democrats met with Obama on Wednesday, and separate meetings for Senate Democrats and Republicans are in the works, too.
Meanwhile, the administration tried to douse a firestorm over the fact that military death benefits are not being paid amid the government shutdown.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Department of Defense had struck a deal in which the Fisher House Foundation, a charity that works with veterans, will pay military death benefits, including $100,000 death gratuity payments. The government will reimburse the foundation once the government shutdown ends and the government is fully funded.
“I am outraged and embarrassed that the government shutdown had prevented the Department of Defense from fulfilling this most sacred responsibility in a timely manner,” Hagel said.
The shutdown occurred because House Republicans insisted on defunding or delaying Obamacare in a bill to fund the government, which the president and Senate Democrats refused to do.
The GOP has been relentlessly attacking Obamacare throughout the shutdown, and on Wednesday it was Collins’ turn to do so.
At a hearing of the House Small Business Subcommittee on Health and Technology – which Collins chairs – the Clarence lawmaker lamented the health law’s provision requiring companies with more than 50 full-time employees to offer health insurance.
“The evidence is clear,” Collins said. “The fact that part-time work has made up the majority of the job growth so far this year is proof. This law is forcing more companies to limit hours so they can remain open.”
The hearing focused on the health law’s definition of full-time employees as those who work more than 30 hours a week – which is far stricter than federal labor law, which defines full-time work as starting at 40 hours.
At the hearing, Dean Baker, co-director of the liberal-leaning Center for Economic and Policy Research, disputed Collins’ claim that Obamacare is pushing businesses toward part-time employment. Labor data from the first half of the year actually shows growth in full-time employment as well as part-time employment, he said.
“This suggests that the number of employees who may have actually cut hours to avoid the sanctions is too small to have a noticeable impact on the labor market,” Baker said.
News wire services contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org