By ROBERT PEAR
Published: August 7, 2011
WASHINGTON — The downgrade of the United States government’s credit rating by Standard & Poor’s is almost sure to increase pressure on a new Congressional “supercommittee” to mute ideological disagreements and recommend a package of deficit-reduction measures far exceeding its original goal of at least $1.5 trillion, lawmakers said Sunday.
Even before the panel is appointed, its mission is expanding. Its role is not just to cut the annual budget deficit and slow the explosive growth of federal debt but also to appease the markets and help restore the United States’ top credit rating of AAA. Otherwise, taxpayers may eventually have to pay more in interest for every dollar borrowed by the Treasury.
The report certainly got the attention of Capitol Hill. “I think this is one of the most telling, important moments in our country’s history right now,” Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Sunday on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” He added: “This poses a set of choices not just about a recession. It’s about a financial crisis and the structure of our economy, which really has been misallocating capital.”
In the S.&P. report on Friday outlining the reasons for removing long-term Treasury debt from its list of nearly risk-free investments, the company cited doubts about the ability of the two political parties to bridge their gulf on fiscal policy.
Credit rating agencies have thus emerged as a powerful constituency whose concerns are taken seriously by Congress.
Representative Joe Courtney, Democrat of Connecticut, said he had “read and reread the S. & P. report” several times since it was issued Friday night, and he said it could spur action by Congress. If the 12 members of the committee, to be appointed by Aug. 16 by Congressional leaders of the two parties, could agree on a deficit-reduction package, and if Congress approved it, Mr. Courtney said, “that would surprise a lot of skeptics” and could disprove the company’s criticism of the United States political system.