Conrad: Bipartisan deficit plan needed by time of debt ceiling vote

Republicans want to use the debt-limit vote to force the White House to accept either deep cuts to discretionary spending or a balanced budget amendment. Conrad said that discretionary cuts are not sufficient and could harm the recovery if done too soon.

Conrad said Tuesday that he is concerned about a focus on non-defense discretionary spending, which is only 16 percent of spending, including by the president in his State of the Union address.

“If you eliminate it all, you haven’t solved this problem,” he said.

He said that the reason for the focus is that the public in polls says that Medicare, Social Security, defense ad revenue should not be touched.

"If that is the case … it is a mathematical certainty you can’t solve the problem."

At the hearing, Sessions countered that early cuts to discretionary spending would be a down payment on future cuts. He also said the GOP shares the blame for the current fiscal woes.

"I have criticized the Bush administration: Somehow the word got around that 'deficits don’t matter,'" he said.