Cover Story: No more follow the leader in Washington?

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The U-S debt clock is ticking up to a financial D-day.  Negotiations are going nowhere because no one can get along.

Basically, if America had a MasterCard, next month is when it'd be maxed out.  The deadline is August 2. That's when we hit our debt ceiling.

And our elected leaders have to get this thing under control.

Problem is, they don't like each other.  Not just Republicans fighting with Democrats.  But Republicans fighting with Republicans.  And Democrats fighting with Democrats.

Party leaders can't even control their own troops.  Some are saying, no more follow-the-leader in Washington.

Congress works when two things happen.  The Indians get behind the chief and when both sides give up something. And right now it appears neither one of those is happening.

When the water stops flowing - we're in a drought.

If the buck stops flowing - we could be in a world of hurt.

"This is the first game of chicken that I've seen that we might actually have a collision."

And he should know.  He's UNC Charlotte political science professor Dr. Jim Douglas, an expert on the federal budget and budget deficit.

"They play chicken with this a lot. Never been in a situation where I really thought there was a realistic possibility that they might not raise the debt limit. And now I think there's a realistic possibility the debt limit will not get raised," said Douglas.

Congress has had these dust ups before, but never to this extent.

"We're spending money like drunken sailors," said Rep. Joe Walsh, a Republican from Illinois.

Tea Party Republicans elected last November aren't falling in line behind GOP leadership.

They and other GOP members won't vote to raise the debt ceiling unless something is done about the deficit - reign in spending.

While Democrat rank-and-file members say they won't vote for any cuts to Medicare or Social Security benefits.

President Obama was willing to consider those actions, but only if the GOP would agree to raising some taxes.

Throw in a congressman or two running for president and it's getting to be a real ugly.

"Get your act together.. and stop playing around," said presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann.

So with no more follow the leader in D.C., we polled local representatives to ask how they would solve the crisis.

From Representative Sue Myrick came this:  "We cannot simply raise the debt limit without addressing how we get in this situation in the first place..."

Congressman Patrick McHenry says, "Our spending-fueled debt crisis has reached critical mass and we can't afford to kick the can down the road any longer."

Comments typical of the Republicans position.

Democratic Congressman Mel Watt told us he believes the debt ceiling and the budget deficit shouldn't be tied together.  They're two separate issues.

But he added, "The consequences of not passing the debt ceiling increase are so draconian that there will be a resolution. We have to find a resolution. So I think at the end of the day.. at the last minute.. we'll come to some kind of resolution."

But what that will look like, Rep. Watt told us he doesn't know.

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