Congressional leaders meet to discuss long term debt

The Congressional Budget Office seal in Washington, D.C.

JEREMY HOBSON: Well there's a big meeting in Washington today about raising the federal debt ceiling. Lawmakers are trying to agree on a long-term plan to reduce the deficit in exchange for raising the nation's credit limit. Global investors are getting concerned about whether the U.S. will be able to get its fiscal house in order.

Congressman Chris Van Hollen is the senior democrat on the House Budget Committee and he joins us now. Good morning.

CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: Good morning.

HOBSON: Well, what deadline are members of Congress operating under at this point -- that the debt ceiling would be hit in a matter of weeks or later this summer?

VAN HOLLEN: Secretary Geithner has said August 2 is the doomsday date. In other words, we will hit the debt ceiling earlier but that he can manage until August 2 at the latest.

HOBSON: Are entitlement reforms being taken out of the discussion now in terms of raising the debt ceiling?

VAN HOLLEN: Well there are reports today that the republicans have dropped their insistence at least for now on ending the Medicare guarantee, which would've required seniors to be forced into the private insurance market. But, subsequently there have been statements saying they have not. So it's not clear yet what they're going to demand in terms of their Medicare cuts.

HOBSON: How much do you think has to be done right away to satisfy global investors?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, again, they're two pieces to this right? I mean one is to deal with the debt ceiling and if we're not able to do that, it would have huge repercussions in the market. On deficit reduction, it's not clear other than to say that we should come up with a plan that shows a good faith effort at reducing the deficit.

HOBSON: But you don't think that the rating agencies and global investors need to see a long-term plan coming up with right away in order to feel comfortable that the U.S. will pay its debts?

VAN HOLLEN: My preference is to come up with a long-term plan as soon as possible, right away would be best. But the most important thing is to demonstrate to the country that we're able to come up with an agreement that begins the process. It would be nice to get some global comprehensive agreement immediately. But short of that there are important things we can do to send the right signals,

HOBSON: Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen. Thank you so much for joining us.

VAN HOLLEN: Thank you.

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