Sen. Conrad: Emphasize spending cuts to curtail rising debt

Lawmakers should emphasize cutting spending over increased taxes in addressing the nation’s long-term fiscal situation, a top Democrat said Wednesday.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, suggested that lawmakers should agree on a plan to bring down deficits and debt, but not implement it until the economy has recovered. 

“What we do on the revenue side has to be carefully done,” Conrad said during an appearance on CNBC. “The emphasis needs to be on the spending side of the equation. But anyone who thinks we’re going to get through this without raising revenue is not dealing with reality, I believe.”

Conrad made his comments alongside Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), the top Republican on the Budget committee and a member, like Conrad, of President Obama’s fiscal commission. That commission has met several times this year and is set to make recommendations on how to address the nation’s fiscal situation in a Dec. 1 report. 

The North Dakota Democrat asserted, though, that whatever that panel might recommend — or any other agreement struck by lawmakers — should have a delay in implementation, since, Conrad argued, neither tax nor spending cuts were a good idea in a recession.

“I think what we need to do now is we need to agree on the plan to deal with spending reductions and additional revenue, but not implement those plans at the moment, when the economy remains weak,” he said. 

Politics remain a major obstacle to the kinds of reforms Conrad has proposed. A number of Republicans have made clear that they oppose any new taxes, and favor the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. (Conrad has said he favors extending all those cuts temporarily.) Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, have opposed the kinds of entitlement cuts or reforms that are expected to be part of a reform proposal.