In Reversal, Rep. West Admits Default Would Be "Calamitous"

July 21, 2011 12:09 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Allen West (R-FL) made news this week when he sent an angry email to DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz calling her "vile," "despicable," and "not a lady." While West's typically vitriolic missive is soaking up the media's attention, comments he made this morning are more noteworthy in terms of forecasting where the fight over the looming default crisis may be heading.

During an interview on Fox Business, West was asked if he would consider supporting a short-term increase in the debt ceiling in order to keep the government from defaulting. West responded that he is open to the idea, saying, "I'm not going to be a part of any type of calamitous situation that occurs in the United States of America somewhat similar to what we may have seen back in 2008."   

STUART VARNEY (HOST): If "Cut, Cap, and Balance" goes down to defeat in the Senate, would you then get behind a very short-term deal?

WEST: Well, I think I'm a pretty reasonable fellow and I do not want to see the United States default on any of its credit obligations, but I also know that we must contend with our spending control that we have up here. I want to make sure that the United States of America remains economically viable. I don't want to see any of our individuals such as our seniors and military to have to live under the specter of not being paid, so I want to make sure that is prioritized. So yeah, I would be willing to sit down and listen to something to make sure we get past the August 2nd deadline, but in the long term we still have contend with spending control measure and any type of tax hikes are off the table for me. 

VARNEY: ...You're now saying that you would at least look at a short-term measure to get us past August 2nd. Am I reading it correctly?

WEST: Yeah, you are reading it correctly. I think that, you know, in coming up here, I have to do what's best for the country. And I have to also make sure that I maintain a principled stance that gets our fiscal house in order. But I'm not going to be a part of any type of calamitous situation that occurs in the United States of America somewhat similar to what we may have seen back in 2008.

Watch:

Host Stuart Varney characterized West's statement as a "breakthrough," noting that members of the Tea Party like West have previously refused to consider any compromise proposals. Like several pro-default Republicans, West has rejected warnings about the consequences of default and accused President Obama of lying. In an interview on NPR last week, West flatly denied that failing to raise the debt ceiling would have what he now calls "calamitous" consequences. "I don't believe it's going to be catastrophic," he said.   

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