Sen. John Kerry castigated “a small group of Republican ideologues” for holding the nation hostage during debt-ceiling negotiations and bringing the United States to the brink of default.

Speaking at a press conference at Suffolk University, the Massachusetts Democrat called on Congress to “put the interests of the country ahead of the interests of the party.”

Kerry said he had no choice but to vote for what he described as a poorly conceived deficit-reduction package -- signed into law Aug. 2 -- because the risk of default and the projected impact on Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries did not allow him the luxury of a symbolic protest vote.

He expressed concern for ordinary Americans in the face of the budgetary decisions that must be made in the coming months to satisfy the demands of the debt-limit agreement, which call for $2.1 trillion in cuts with no increase in taxes.

And he lamented that the drastic cuts will not allow the nation to address the critical issue of job creation.

While Kerry said that there are savings to be found in a “73,000-page tax code … with tax loopholes and benefits that are no longer useful” he hearkened back to the “responsible” approach to deficit reduction taken in the 1990s. A combination of cuts and revenue increases set in motion during that time would have resulted in a balanced budget by next year, according to Kerry.

However, a “tax cut we couldn’t afford” and two wars paid for with “the credit card” stymied that effort, he said.