More than 1 million New Mexicans who rely on federal service programs could see their benefits being disrupted depending on the outcome of the ongoing fight between Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the debt limit.
Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., warned against such a disruption and likened the country’s debt to a family’s mortgage. He cautioned that not paying the bill only makes matters worse.
“America pays its bills, and we pay our bills on time. Families all over the country … understand that,” Heinrich said during a news conference with other Democratic senators Wednesday. “The time to figure out how much house you can afford is before you buy the house. We already bought it.”
Democrats and Republicans in Washington are at an impasse over whether the country’s debt limit should be raised. The Treasury Department has said that it will run out of money by June and department officials asked Congress to raise the country’s debt limit, which is currently around $31 trillion.
Republicans have instead argued for spending cuts.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the topic.
Heinrich referred to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which shows roughly 455,000 state residents are Social Security recipients, 447,000 receive Medicare and there are about 142,000 veterans who could be at risk of seeing their benefits disrupted.
A significant percentage of those recipients live in Bernalillo County, the state’s most populous county. There are about 135,000 residents who receive Medicare and the same number of Social Security recipients. There are close to 50,000 veterans in the county, according to CMS data.
Heinrich said those benefits could be halted or cut if an agreement isn’t reached.
“We incurred these debts already, we should just pay them,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said alongside Heinrich. “The cost of not owning up to our debts … would be devastating.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.