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Debt Ceiling Battle Begins To Heat Up

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The government is now funded through September, but now lawmakers must decide on how to deal with the debt ceiling.
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The government is now funded through September, but now lawmakers must decide on how to deal with the debt ceiling.

The last time Congress wrangled over the debt ceiling, the federal government lost its Triple A credit rating. Creditors say Virginia and Maryland could also lose their pristine credit ratings if the federal government gets locked in partisan warfare once again. That could make borrowing more expensive for cash-strapped locales. But many Republicans say they'll refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless they reach a deal to cut an equal amount of spending.

Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith says unless Congress can cut spending, the Commonwealth risks a downgrade anyway.

"If we have no plan to balance our budget, we will be downgraded," says Griffith. "So I think it's the responsible thing to do if we don't have a plan, is to not raise the debt ceiling until we get a plan."

Credit agencies say the last downgrade wasn't because of all the red ink on the government's books. They say it was because of partisan brinksmanship in Congress. Virginia Democratic Gerry Connolly says Republicans are playing with fire.

"I think it's a very dangerous game," says Connolly. "I think it plays havoc with the credit worthiness of the United States yet again. I think the country is tired of that gamesmanship."

The debt ceiling won't be triggered until the summer, but the debate is already starting to dwarf other policy areas.

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