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WASHINGTON -- Delawareans participating in a town hall via telephone with Democratic Sen. Tom Carper on Sunday night shared deep concerns about what might happen if congressional lawmakers fail to raise the nation's debt ceiling before Tuesday's deadline.

"If I don't get my Social Security, I can't pay my next month's rent," a 79-year-old Millsboro woman said.

A Wilmington man asked Carper which bills he would recommend the Treasury stop paying if the nation defaults on its debts. Carper responded that Congress will work hard to make sure that doesn't happen.

"It would have a chilling effect -- more than a chilling effect -- on our economic recovery, and we need to avoid that," he said.

Nearly 14,000 Delawareans were on the call, which lasted more than an hour.

The call ended before President Barack Obama told the nation that lawmakers had reached a deal on raising the debt ceiling. Congressional leaders were still briefing members of the House and Senate on the deal Sunday night.

Carper said he hadn't seen details of the deal. But he continued to tout a plan drafted by a presidential commission on the debt and deficit that recommended cutting spending and eliminating tax breaks and loopholes to save roughly $4 trillion over the next decade.

Some of those on the call questioned why the government couldn't save more money by cutting waste.

Carper, who chairs a Senate subcommittee that oversees federal financial management, said improper payments and fraud in Medicare are "low-hanging fruit" in the search for savings.

"We need to go after that first, before we think about cutting benefits," he said.

Asked why the government seems dysfunctional, Carper attributed the challenge to the redrawing of congressional districts across the nation, which he said has led to deeper partisan divides in Congress.

"At the end of the day next year, voters will look at the dysfunction and they'll say, 'Who's causing this?' " he said.

Full story: http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110801/NEWS02/108010343