Two Republican senators on President Barack Obama’s debt commission endorsed a plan by its co-chairmen, putting half of the 18-member panel on record in support of a $4 trillion budget-cutting proposal.
Senators Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Mike Crapo of Idaho said today that, while they didn’t like many elements of this week’s revised proposal, the nation’s fiscal challenges are so severe they must put aside their objections.
“I would have written a totally different plan,” Coburn told reporters. “I can’t have my way” and “our country deserves us to sacrifice like the call we’re going to make to everyone else to sacrifice to accomplish what we have to accomplish and that is to get out of this hole.”
Coburn said the plan doesn’t go far enough and should call for $10 trillion in cuts. The plan is “a beginning,” he said. “You pass this package and then you do more.”
The panel plans to vote tomorrow on the proposal, with 14 votes needed to forward it to Congress. Thus, five ‘no’ votes would kill it. Senator Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat who backs the plan, said today he doubts there will be enough votes. “I frankly never thought we’d get 14” votes, Conrad told Bloomberg Television.
Against the Plan
Representatives Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, have said they will vote against the plan. Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling said today he is probably against it. “It does not address health care in a meaningful way,” he told reporters. “Certainly I’m leaning ‘no.’”
Incoming House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said he has “some concerns” with the proposal, saying he will announce his decision tomorrow. Andy Stern, a former president of the Service Employees International Union, released his own plan. A Stern spokeswoman said he plans to announce his vote on the commission’s plan tomorrow.
Panel co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson unveiled the revised plan that would raise taxes by $1 trillion, primarily by scaling back or eliminating hundreds of tax deductions, exclusions and credits such as those letting homeowners write off interest on their mortgage payments.
The Bowles-Simpson approach also would cut individual and corporate income taxes. It would reduce spending on Medicare by more than $400 billion and trim Social Security benefits. It calls for $1.6 trillion in cuts to so-called discretionary spending by the government, about evenly divided between security and non-security related programs.
The package would reduce the annual federal deficit from $1.3 trillion this year to about $400 billion by 2015 and start reducing the $13.7 trillion national debt.
Other proposal backers are by Senator Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican; David Cote, chairman of Honeywell International Inc.; Ann Fudge, former chief executive officer of Young & Rubicam Inc.; former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin, along with Bowles, a former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming.
Ryan said today he would oppose the plan because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the health-care overhaul approved earlier this year, which he said would only worsen the government’s fiscal woes.
“You cannot fix this problem without taking on health care,” Ryan said. The plan “doesn’t even take a step in the right direction. It takes many steps in the wrong direction from my perspective.”
Schakowsky said the plan included too many cuts, including ones that would come at the expense of Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries.