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Kerry faults Tea Party in US credit rating drop

By Theo Emery
Globe Staff / August 8, 2011

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WASHINGTON - Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts called Friday’s lowering of the US credit rating a “Tea Party downgrade’’ as finger-pointing continued about the decision from a top credit rating agency.

“This is the Tea Party downgrade because a minority of people in the House of Representatives countered even the will of many Republicans in the United States Senate who were prepared to do a bigger deal,’’ Kerry said yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.’’

John McCain, who followed Kerry on the program, defended Tea Party conservatives, saying they were fulfilling the promises they made when they ran for Congress last fall.

“For them to then agree to tax increases and spending increases was obviously a repudiation of the mandate they felt they had from last November,’’ the Arizona Republican said.

The comments from the two senior members of the Senate came in the aftermath of Friday’s decision by Standard & Poor’s to lower the US long-term credit rating from AAA to AA+, which the agency had warned was a possibility.

The decision came despite passage last week of a $2.5 trillion deficit reduction plan, which S&P officials said was insufficient. The White House has been deeply critical of S&P’s decision. The company has defended it.

After a brief interlude of bipartisan backslapping after the deal passed, the slip in the credit rating has ignited a new round of angry accusations.

House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said, “Democrats who run Washington remain unwilling to make the tough choices required to put America on solid ground.’’

Senate majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the committee charged with finding $1.5 trillion more in savings should exclude “hard-liners’’ who have ruled out new revenues. And GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said the president was “missing in action’’ during the debt talks.

Kerry himself has not been immune from criticism during the debate. Republicans in Massachusetts accused him of hypocrisy for supporting the increase after voting against doing so during George W. Bush’s presidency. Kerry’s office has said that he supported increases most of the time and has never opposed it when there was a default risk, and that his votes against raising the limit in 2006 and 2007 were in protest of White House policy.

During his appearance yesterday, Kerry urged Senate GOP colleagues, including McCain, to work with Democrats. McCain had used a Senate speech late last month to criticize calls for a balanced budget amendment, which was a central demand of many fiscal conservatives in the House.

But yesterday, McCain wasn’t interested in going after his own party. Instead, he accused President Obama of a failure of leadership, though he admitted that the demands of Tea Party conservatives in the House delayed resolution of the debt ceiling impasse.

“We could have reached agreement a lot earlier, but the members of the House of Representatives had a mandate,’’ he said.

Obama political adviser David Axelrod also blamed the downgrade of the credit rating on Tea Party Republicans, whom he said were unwilling to compromise on reducing the debt.

Axelrod said on CBS’s “Face the Nation’’ yesterday that the decision by Standard & Poor’s was strongly influenced by weeks of standoff between Democrats and Republicans concerning the debt.

Theo Emery can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @temery. top stories on Twitter

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