ATLANTA — For Rep. Tim Scott the debt ceiling is not only the top issue voters in his South Carolina district want to talk about these days, it seems to be the only issue.
The office of the freshman Republican has been logging dozens of calls and emails every day about the debt ceiling, and it’s the No. 1 topic of discussion at town hall-style meetings with voters.
“Tons of phone calls, lots of emails, and the closer we get to Aug. 2, the more we’re hearing,” Scott said.
With the deadline looming to raise the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, voters are tuning in, worried by the prospect of a financial meltdown if the nation defaults and concerned that elected officials in Washington are playing politics with an issue that could havee far-reaching consequences.
If the United States falls into default, the result could be higher interest rates on mortgages, car loans and credit cards as well as a stop to Social Security checks for the elderly.
In its simplest form, the debt ceiling fight crystallizes party orthodoxy: Republicans staking out a hard line against raising taxes and Democrats standing firm against deep cuts to government services.
President Barack Obama supports a blend of spending cuts and tax increases, a position that has backing of 69 percent of Americans, according to a recent Gallup poll.
A poll from the Pew Research Center found that among independent voters’ — coveted by both political parties — concern has shifted from fear that raising the debt ceiling would increase government spending to worry about the impact of the failure to raise the debt ceiling,
Two months ago Pew found that independents, by 49 percent to 34 percent margin, were more concerned that raising the debt ceiling would lead to higher government spending, as opposed to chiefly fearing the harmful effects of keeping the ceiling unchanged. This month, independents split evenly on the question.
Still, some lawmakers say they are hearing the most from their party’s base, those who hold entrenched positions and urge their representatives not to yield.
“Don’t bend, stay the course, stand firm,” Rep. Tom Price said in summing up the feedback from constituents in his heavily Republican district north of Atlanta.
But Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat, said he’s also hearing from constituents, and it’s a completely different message.
“They are telling me protect Medicare, protect Social Security, protect those that are less fortunate,” Lewis said.
Printed on 07/18/2011 as: Voters' worries rise as debt ceiling talks heat up in Congress