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Conrad Says Panel’s Deficit Cuts Don’t Go Deep Enough

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Senator Kent Conrad
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Dec. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad said the U.S. needs to cut the deficit more than what was proposed by a bipartisan debt commission and reiterated his call for a summit on the issue with President Barack Obama.

“I would prefer to even go further in deficit reduction than this package,” Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and member of the commission who backed the plan, said today on “Fox News Sunday.” He called the proposal, which was supported by 11 of the panel’s 18 members, “a strong beginning.”

Obama’s debt commission rejected a $3.8 trillion budget-cutting plan as members from both parties opposed its mix of tax increases and spending cuts in programs such as Social Security and Medicare. The plan fell short of the 14 votes needed to forward the proposal to Congress for consideration.

“I think if we’re going to reach conclusion, we’ve got to have the leaders of the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat, and the president or his representatives at the table,” Conrad said. “I think that’s next logical step.”

Five of the six U.S. senators on the panel voted for the plan, including all three Republicans. The rejected proposal would have reduced the annual deficit to about $400 billion in 2015, from this year’s $1.3 trillion, and begin reducing the debt.

Tax Increase

Representative Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican and member of the debt commission, said he voted against the plan because it “represents a roughly $2 trillion tax increase.” The proposal “does not fundamentally address the key driver of our national fiscal crisis, and that is health care,” Hensarling said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“There’s nothing magical about 14 votes,” Hensarling said. “If the speaker and the Senate majority leader want to bring this provision before the Congress, they can. And I would encourage them to do it.”

The plan would have increased taxes by $1 trillion by 2020 by scaling back or eliminating tax deductions, exclusions or credits such as those allowing homeowners to write off interest on their mortgage payments. It would also have cut individual and corporate income tax rates.

Social Security benefits would have been cut, the gas tax would have gone up by 15 cents, discretionary spending would have been reduced by $1.6 trillion and Medicare would have been pared by $400 billion.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Katz in Washington at ikatz2@bloomberg.net; or Simon Lomax in Washington at slomax@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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