RALEIGH — Republican Senate candidate Mark Harris aligned himself with congressional conservatives Thursday in the battle over the government shutdown, the president’s health care plan, and raising the federal debt limit.
“I would not support raising the debt limit without a plan in place that would reduce government spending, lower taxes and grant the American people the same waiver from Obamacare that has been granted to (Sen.) Kay Hagan,” he said referring to the new health care law.
Harris, a Charlotte pastor, said President Barack Obama was trying “to build a sense of fear in the financial markets,” about the impact of the failure of raising the debt ceiling, but he said there is just as big a concern about the nation’s spending problem.
“I think there are some concerns if the country were ever to default,” Harris said at a news conference outside the state Capitol. “But I don’t see that as something that is going to happen.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis, one of Harris’ opponents in the May GOP primary, has yet to take a position on the debt limit, but he said “the current debacle in Washington rests at the feet of Kay Hagan and other Democrat leaders in the Senate.”
In a statement, Tillis called for a budget “defunding Kay Hagan’s Obamacare.” Greg Brannon, a Cary physician, who is also a candidate, could not be reached for comment.
Hagan’s campaign said that she too was frustrated “with this reckless shutdown” but placed the blame at the feet at the Republicans.
“Unfortunately to this point, the House of Representatives has preferred to engage in political stunts by passing bills that they know have no chance of becoming law and threatening a devastating default,” said Sadie Weiner, a Hagan campaign spokeswoman.
“All of the candidates in this chaotic primary field support the shutdown strategy and are more interested in grandstanding and joining the Ted Cruz wing of their party than in finding commonsense, bipartisan solutions like Senator Hagan has done,” Wiener said.
At his news conference, Harris said that during future government shut downs, members of Congress and the White House staff should lose their pay and perks.
“If government employees must go without pay, if American taxpayers must to without services, then the elected officials who caused the mess should forfeit all their pay and perks as well,” said Harris.
Harris said he would propose legislation that would require members of Congress to participate in the Affordable Care Act.
Senators and representatives, like three-quarters of Americans, get their insurance through their employer, in this case the federal government. Under the new law, lawmakers and their staff must drop their old coverage and find something equivalent from insurance companies operating in the marketplaces under the new health care plan. Because the new plan will cost each staffer thousands of dollars more, the Office of Personnel Management is taking the money spent under the old plan to help subsidize the cost for staffers similar to what private employers do.
Although the government shutdown was precipitated by the GOP-controlled House’s decision not to pass the continuing resolution funding the government – in an effort to defund the new health care program – Harris placed the blame on the Democrats.
He said the Democrats had refused various House proposals to fund various popular portions of the government. He also said the Democrats had failed to pass a budget, relying instead on continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the government.
“America has arrived at this Obama-Reid government shutdown entirely because of the lack of leadership in Washington D.C.” Harris said.