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Meeks explains vote on debt lid to seniors

With the future of the economy in jeopardy due to a downgrade in the nation’s credit rating, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) reassured his elderly constituents that he and his fellow Democrats would not lead their financial futures to a path of ruin.

The congressman visited the Robert Couche Senior Center, at 137-57 Farmers Blvd., Aug. 10 to brief them on his part in the debt ceiling negotiations that went on in Congress.

Meeks told the seniors at the center not to fall for the sensationalist stories that said President Barack Obama ended up becoming the loser in the negotiations because the congressman said without the president’s making some concessions, the country would have ended up in a far worse scenario.

“We are lucky, given the current state that we are in, that we have this president,” he said.

Meeks said he voted in favor of the deal because of the long-term benefits it would bring to the budget and the Democrats. Under the plan, the nation’s deficits would be reduced by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years and the debt ceiling would be allowed to increase between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion, an amount that would cover the U.S. Treasury’s borrowing needs until 2013, according to Meeks.

The congressman said Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) actually came to an agreement during the weeks of back-and-forth negotiations where the country would get more $800 million in new revenue but that was quashed when the speaker brought the plan to his GOP members.

Meeks slammed the Tea Party for playing politics and killing all plans that would have benefited the country just so members could make a political move that would benefit their own interests.

“We were two days away from defaulting on our debt. The other side did not care,” he said.

The deal, however, did have a silver lining that would benefit the Democrats, according to the congressman. Congress was mandated to create a six-member, bipartisan, debt-reduction committee, ´╗┐which must create a second round of debt reduction legislation by the end of the year.

Meeks said the committee would counter the GOP’s House majority ´╗┐since they packed the chairmanship of many House committees with their members and have been pushing their own agendas.

“It was the best thing to do in the long term,” the congressman said.

An activist group, however, disagreed with Meeks’ reasoning. Members of United NY and New York Communities for Change protested outside the congressman’s Jamaica office Friday afternoon and chastised him for not hearing his constituents’ needs before making his decision.

Meeks, however, brushed off the criticism and said he is confident Obama will overcome the Tea Party tactics and reach a consensus with Congress to improve the nation’s economy.

“To me, he’s playing chess while [the Tea Party] is playing checkers,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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