Democratic Senator Mark Warner, one of the “gang of six” that sought a bipartisan deal on U.S. debt reduction, urged members of both parties on a deficit supercommittee to “go big, go bold” with their savings.
“Even if the supercommittee knocks another $1.5 trillion off our debt, that’s still not going to be enough,” Warner said on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend. “Unless we can also take on the issue of entitlement reform and tax reform to generate revenue, I don’t think we’re going to get there,” he said.
Warner of Virginia said the government has exhausted traditional tools for boosting the economy and creating jobs, such as lowering interest rates and injecting stimulus spending.
With President Barack Obama set to outline a jobs plan next month, Warner said Congress shouldn’t let partisan bickering get in the way of other options, including funding to improve the nation’s infrastructure, changing patent law and speeding the approval of new medicines.
“If we’re going to look at gridlock, candidly, the whole Congress ought to get fired, because the American people ought to expect us to do our job,” Warner said. “Part of that is at least what we can do to try to help incent this kind of job creation.”
Warner said there is “a whole series of things that we could do,” and some lawmakers, particularly in the House, must “simply stop saying ‘no’ and kind of roll up their sleeves and try to work together in a bipartisan way.”
Obama will release his jobs plan shortly after the Sept. 5 Labor Day holiday. The president intends to press Congress for billions of dollars in fresh spending to reduce unemployment as he also pursues a compromise on long-term deficit cuts.
Measures to spur the economy that require additional government spending are likely to run into opposition from congressional Republicans, who control the House of Representatives.
Warner, who has spent August traveling his state, said he’s finding a “huge level of frustration” with Congress for not doing more to reduce the nation’s deficit. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projects the shortfall will reach $1.3 trillion in the year ending Sept. 30.
“Personally, I’m pretty disgusted as well,” he said.
As part of a debt-limit compromise Congress passed earlier this month, lawmakers designated a 12-member bipartisan panel to find $1.5 trillion in budget savings over 10 years to avoid automatic, across-the-board spending cuts. The panel was given a Nov. 23 deadline to offer a proposal and must overcome differences over taxes and cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicare.
Warner said lawmakers must be willing to “check their Republican-Democrat hats and really make sure that we get this debt and deficit problem under control.”
While the problem won’t be solved overnight, “a 10-year plan to reduce $4 trillion in debt should not be the kind of ultimate heavy lift,” Warner said. “If we don’t step up and do that, then I don’t think we are doing our country a service.”