One day after voting against a measure to raise the federal debt ceiling, North Country Congressman Bill Owens says federal lawmakers need to start getting serious about spending cuts.
The Democrat also wants the House to start working together and stop engaging in what he calls "political gamesmanship."
Tuesday's bill would have allowed the federal government to increase how much debt it can hold by $2.4 trillion. That would set the public debt limit at an eye-popping $16.7 trillion.
Owens says Congress needs to get serious and put together a bipartisan plan that addresses federal spending and reduces the possibility of America defaulting on its debt.
In an interview with WNBZ Wednesday afternoon, Owens said he joined the GOP in voting down the bill because he disagrees with raising the ceiling without significant spending cuts. Still, he says the vote was more or less a waste of time.
"It was just a messaging piece of legislation," he said. "They were attempting to put Democrats in a position of voting for it if they were so inclined. But it was purely messaging and in my view a waste of time. We should have been negotiating the whole issue related to the debt ceiling and get ourselves focused on ways in which we're going to reduce the deficit and the debt instead of playing this gamesmanship."
This is the third time Owens has voted against raising the debt ceiling. He says he'd rather reduce national debt by enacting nonpartisan spending cuts and allowing tax rates for millionaires and billionaires to expire, returning them to Clinton-era levels.
Many Democrats want to see the Bush-era tax cuts expire for joint filers making more than $250,000 annually. Owens would like to see that number increased to $500,000 for households.
But Owens says no one is talking about spending cuts or tax rates. And he says his centrist approach to the debt ceiling and federal spending isn't an earth-shattering proposal.
"This is not a position that I'm taking that is, if you will, of my own creation," he said. "This comes out of reading and thinking about a lot of information supplied by a lot of smart people."
Owens is also demanding public hearings on the debt issue. He says taxpayers need to hear firsthand the reasons for and against raising the federal ceiling.