Bowles Says He’s Worried Deficit Supercommittee Will Fail

A co-leader of President Barack Obama’s fiscal commission told the congressional supercommittee seeking a $1.5 trillion debt-reduction package, “I’m worried you’re going to fail.”

Erskine Bowles, former President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, testified before the 12-member bipartisan panel of House and Senate members today in Washington. He said the deficit stems from four major sources: the costs of health care and national defense, the “ineffective” tax system and interest on the national debt.

Also testifying before the panel, former Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, a Republican, criticized Democrats who oppose changes to Medicare and Republicans who refuse to accept tax increases.

“They are both complicit in letting America destroy itself, in letting this great democracy destroy itself because we don’t want to make tough decisions,” Domenici told the supercommittee. “I hope you heard that.”

The panel faces a Nov. 23 deadline to reach an agreement. If it doesn’t come up with a plan that Congress passes by the end of the year, across-the-board spending cuts to domestic and defense programs will occur in 2013. The committee has been deadlocked over Democrats’ insistence on tax increases and Republicans’ refusal to accept them.

Norquist, AARP

Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson, a Republican, criticized anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, president of the advocacy group Americans for Tax Reform, and AARP, the senior citizens’ lobbying group that opposes cuts to Social Security.

Norquist “has people in thrall,” Simpson said. Cutting the deficit is “a tough job and you’re going to have to do it,” the former senator said.

Bowles said earlier today there’s a 50 percent chance that the supercommittee will agree on a plan. In an interview on Bloomberg Television, Bowles said a downgrade of U.S. debt is “very possible” if the panel doesn’t come up with a plan to cut the deficit.

A $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan is the “minimum” amount needed to lower the deficit, Bowles said in the interview. He said there’s a 20 percent chance the commission would agree on a large-scale plan. Simpson, the co-chairman of Obama’s debt panel, said in the interview that the supercommittee should address tax “loopholes.”

Last December, Obama’s debt commission rejected a recommendation by Bowles and Simpson for a $3.8 trillion budget-cutting plan that included a mix of tax increases and spending cuts.

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