PITTSFIELD -- In his first major speech before the Berkshire business community since he began representing the county at the beginning of January, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal on Tuesday said the political polarization in Washington regarding the raising of the debt limit needs to end.

"It needs to stop being a politically charged game," the Springfield Democrat said at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce function at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. "It's a lousy way to run the government."

Neal, who has been a member of Congress for 25 years, was elected to represent the Berkshires in November, in the first election since the county was redrawn into his district.

On Tuesday, Neal said he has noticed "some thawing" in Washington during the "last two or three weeks" in the political polarization surrounding the economy. But he said the country has to continue to address the "continuing resolution" of how to fund the government, and prevent sequestration cuts that would result in across the board cuts to defense industries like General Dynamics.

"The debt limit is not about new spending," he said. "It's about paying your bills that have been previously approved. I don't know how any member of Congress that had voted for the war in Iraq can now not vote to raise the debt ceiling. That, to me, is basic arithmetic."

Neal said that he voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling.


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"I thought it was a responsible position to take," he said, "and I continue to believe that we need to get through that thicket to make decisions."

Neal also touched on a variety of other economic-related issues during his remarks.

He called for energy independence, extensive tax code reform, and the need for a national transportation bill.

This article will be updated in future editions of The Eagle.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
tdobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6224.