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Debt debate splits Minn.'s lawmakers in Congress

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — As Congress struggled to act before a potential U.S. debt default, Minnesota's politically split delegation showcased the range of opinion in Washington, from Democrats pushing for a longer-term debt limit increase to Republicans focused on containing spending.

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Republican Rep. Chip Cravaack, the state's newest member of Congress, was one of the conservative House freshmen who helped derail GOP Speaker John Boehner's debt-ceiling proposal before a scheduled vote Thursday. Some Republicans were concerned it didn't cut spending aggressively enough. Spokesman Michael Bars confirmed Friday that Cravaack opposed that version of the Boehner plan and remained undecided on an altered version being pushed toward a Friday vote.

"We have to solve the problem of spending," Cravaack told WCCO-AM Radio on Thursday. "And unless — I understand about raising the debt ceiling, I get it — but at the same time unless we also have a cure to this disease, I mean, all we're doing is basically facilitating it."

Without congressional action, the federal government may not be able to pay all its bills after Tuesday.

Minnesota Democrats including Sen. Amy Klobuchar are pushing for a longer-lasting hike in U.S. borrowing authority to avoid another political impasse before the 2012 presidential election. Klobuchar said Friday that she expects negotiations to yield a bipartisan compromise that might not need the votes of tea party conservatives or some liberals to pass. She said there are enough common points between opposing plans pushed by Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to find a way out of the standoff, which has dragged on for months.

"The most important thing is that people want to get this done, the American people," Klobuchar said in an interview Friday. "They want us to get together and put politics aside and do what we're elected to do."

Cravaack, who represents northern Minnesota's 8th District, is aligning with Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann, the 6th District representative leading opposition to the debt limit increase from the presidential campaign trail. The state's two other GOP House members, Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, have backed the increase paired with spending cuts.

"I can't support any plan that begins with the assumption that we have to raise the debt limit and yet doesn't offer a fundamental restructuring of government spending habits. I won't do it," Bachmann said in a speech to the National Press Club on Thursday.

Other Minnesota Democrats in Congress emphasized the need to avoid a federal default and protect the U.S. government's top credit rating. Earlier in the week, Sen. Al Franken circulated a list of federal spending by county and warned of "economic disaster." He said a default could raise interest rates on credit cards and mortgages and lead to higher prices for utilities, food and fuel.

A spokeswoman for Rep. Tim Walz, who represents southern Minnesota's 1st District, said failure to act would lead to "unprecedented and completely avoidable harm to our still recovering economy."

Rep. Keith Ellison's campaign spokesman warned of the consequences of a default in a fundraising message on Friday.

"If we do default, working families will feel even greater economic pain," it said.

Boehner's plan would increase the debt limit by $900 billion and cut spending by $917 billion. Friday's version added a constitutional balanced-budget amendment that would go to the states for ratification.

Reid's Senate proposal would reduce spending by $2.2 trillion and raise borrowing authority by $2.7 trillion, enough to last until 2013.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
(218) 855-5889
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