House Dems to debate moderators: Don't focus on Bowles-Simpson

The letter from the three Democrats’ is the latest push from the left to ensure that more liberal methods for stabilizing the federal debt are considered this campaign season.

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Democrats on Capitol Hill were expressing concern even before Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) joined the GOP ticket that the debate on deficits and entitlement reform this campaign season would be limited to the House Republican budget and the fiscal commission report. 

A group of senators also prodded debate organizers this month to specifically ask the candidates which parts of Bowles-Simpson they would look to adopt. 

Now, Ryan’s addition to the national race over the weekend has brought even more spotlight to the House budget, which the Wisconsin Republican crafted, and the Bowles-Simpson report, which Ryan voted against. 

Ryan, now the House Budget chairman, was one of three GOP lawmakers to vote against the recommendations of the commission, which was led by Erskine Bowles, a White House chief of staff under President Clinton, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).

The Wisconsin Republican and two other House Republicans – Jeb Hensarling (Texas), now the chairman of the GOP conference, and Dave Camp (Mich.), current chairman of the Ways and Means Committee – expressed concern that Bowles-Simpson both raised taxes and did too little to pull back healthcare spending. 

The fiscal commission report used a combination of spending restraint and a revenue-raising tax reform to rein in deficits. 

But while the reasons for the Republican opposition to Bowles-Simpson may be better known, a majority of the Democrats on the commission – including Schakowsky – also voted against it. 

Democratic opponents have said that the plan asked for too little new revenue from the wealthiest taxpayers while cutting back in areas that are crucial to the middle-class – a point that Honda, Nadler and Schakowsky repeated in their Tuesday letter. 

“As you know, the Simpson-Bowles plan centers on reducing our national debt while doing little to nothing to help our other priorities, such as investments in infrastructure, education, research, and other areas necessary to promote future economic growth and national competitiveness,” the three Democrats wrote. 

Still, the commission’s work is likely to get a lot of airtime in the campaign’s final months. 

Bowles pushed back against Romney in a Washington Post op-ed, after the former Massachusetts governor suggested his tax proposal was similar to what the fiscal commission crafted. 

For his part, Obama has been criticized – including by Bowles and Simpson themselves – for not more fully embracing the recommendations of the commission that he established. But the president has, for more than a year now, also espoused some of the planks in Bowles-Simpson.