Sen. Coats: Capitol Hill ‘Besieged’ by Calls; ‘I Want the Real Thing’ on Debt Deal

ABC News’ Rick Klein ( @rickklein ) reports:

Lawmakers are report a huge uptick in public outreach in the wake of last night’s dueling prime-time addresses by President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner – but few are suggesting that votes are being influenced as a result.

On ABC’s “Top Line” today, Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., told us that “the phone is ringing off the hook,” and e-mail message are pouring in, with constituents expressing exasperation with Washington as well as a range of possible solutions.

“We're in the thousands here. The staff is besieged,” Coats told us. “The message is mixed. Half of the people are basically saying just fix it somehow -- I mean, ‘This is a mess. You guys have made a mess of everything -- fix it.’ ”

“The other half are saying. ‘Look, what's come down is from the president is nothing but a speech and we've had nothing to measure this against, so hang in there.’ So it's kinda roughly balanced in that regard.”

Coats said the Senate is waiting on action on House Speaker John Boehner’s plan, with a vote expected tomorrow: “We're waiting to see what the House is going to do with the Boehner plan. I'm looking at that now and assessing it here. But the Senate is a little bit frozen until the House acts.”

Coats indicated that he’s more favorably inclined toward the Boehner debt-ceiling plan than toward Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal. (He later clarified via Twitter that he “will not support [the] Reid plan.”)

“What I've been asking for is something that is verifiable and that's not just smoke and mirrors,” Coats said. “I want the real thing because we have a real crisis. … I still think the Boehner plan offers a lot more specifics in terms of real cuts, as opposed to some things that are designed as cuts. And the Reid plan may not come across that way.”

Coats joined those who’ve expressed concern that even a deal in Congress may not be enough to avoid a downgrade of US debt by ratings agencies.

“Nobody wants to go into a default situation, but everybody wants a plan that gets at the problem, because that doesn't necessarily solve the downgrade. If we come up with something short of what we need, we're going to get that downgrade anyways, so it's not just an automatic -- everything's fine if we just increase the debt limit.”

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