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Debt debate heats up in Washington

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifies before a Joint Economic Committee Hearing on financial regulatory reform in Washington on November 19, 2009. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner testifies before a Joint Economic Committee Hearing on financial regulatory reform in Washington on November 19, 2009. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- More than a dozen Democratic senators have said they would refuse to raise the U.S. debt ceiling without formation of a committee to study debt reduction.

"The longer you wait, the more you diddle, the more draconian the solutions are going to have to be. That's just a mathematical certainty," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., one of 13 Democrats who said he would refuse to vote for a measure to raise the debt ceiling by nearly $1 trillion, The Washington Post reported Monday.

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While some lawmakers balk at giving their individual power to a committee, the Obama administration could compromise with a committee that has no binding vote, the Post said.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said recently the strategy for reducing the deficit was "growth and jobs."

"That's the best way to make sure we have the ability to shift to going back to living within our means," he said.

But with the nation's debt at $12 trillion and rising, "our only plausible strategy for paying that back is to borrow more money," said Syracuse University economist Leonard Burman.

"Right now, this year, we have $1.6 trillion in debt coming due. That's roughly twice individual income tax revenue," he said.

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