Fiscal hawks call for ‘mini-bargain’ on budget

Fiscal hawks call for ‘mini-bargain’ on budget
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A bipartisan, fiscally conservative advocacy group has called on Congress to strike a “mini-bargain” to reform the budget process, an opening bid to addressing the nation’s debt woes.

“Major tax and spending reforms are needed to fix the country’s debt, but we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” said co-chair of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) Leon Panetta, a Democratic former Defense Secretary, White House chief of staff and House Budget Committee chairman.

The plan would seek to do away with the harsh “sequestration” spending caps of the budget control act and replace them with “realistic and responsible” limits; increase the debt ceiling to avoid an economic crisis; and eliminate commonly used budget gimmicks from the process.

It also calls for bipartisan efforts to tackle the country’s major debt drivers, such as Social Security and other mandatory spending.

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“No plan that omits major reforms of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will protect the nation’s economic future or avoid inflicting an immoral burden on younger Americans,” said Mitch Daniels, another CRFB co-chair and former Republican governor of Indiana. 

“But while we await the statesmanship that delivers those reforms, we should take every partial step possible, and this proposal offers an achievable down payment on the changes that will eventually be necessary,” Daniels added.

Previous plans at a “grand bargain” on debt, such as the 2010 bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission on fiscal responsibility, have failed to gain traction in Congress. 

But many current congressional budget leaders, such as Senate Budget Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Live coverage: Senate Republicans pass tax bill The Hill's Whip List: Where Republicans stand on Senate tax bill MORE (R-Wyo.), agree that the budgetary process is not functioning, and have called for reforming the budget process.

Thus far, the Senate Budget Committee has failed to pass a budget resolution for 2018, and some members have suggested it won’t get around to it this year. The House Budget Committee did pass a belated resolution, but it is stalled on the floor. 

Appropriators in the House and Senate are working off different budget numbers, and members of Congress are increasingly convinced that the process will not yield a budget by the October deadline.