Deficit panel's ideas to be resurrected in bipartisan Senate bill

Sens. Saxby ChamblissClarence (Saxby) Saxby ChamblissThe Hill's Morning Report - Gillibrand drops out as number of debaters shrinks Hoekstra emerges as favorite for top intelligence post Republicans say Democrats holding up disaster relief as 'Sandy payback' MORE (R-Ga.) and Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Russian, Iranian accounts trying to interfere in 2020 | Zuckerberg on public relations blitz | Uncertainty over Huawei ban one month out Zuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Senate Democrats want Warren to talk costs on 'Medicare for All' MORE (D-Va.) on Monday said they will introduce a bill early next year based on the report from President Obama’s deficit commission. 

Warner and Chambliss have been meeting with a group of 18 senators on finding a way to balance the budget, and said they have concluded the debt commission's proposal is the best basis for bipartisan talks.

The debt commission's report received bipartisan support from 11 of the panel's members, ranging from Sen. Tom CoburnThomas (Tom) Allen CoburnThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by PhRMA — Worries grow about political violence as midterms approach President Trump’s war on federal waste American patients face too many hurdles in regard to health-care access MORE (R-Okla.) on the right to Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' Trump judicial nominee delayed amid GOP pushback MORE (D-Ill.) on the left. The recommendations ultimately failed to advance to a vote in Congress because 14 votes were needed for formal commission backing. 

Despite the failed vote, Warner and Chambliss want to use the debt commission's work as a starting point for deficit talks in Congress. The senators said they expect their legislation to evolve as they seek supporters from both parties, but they said the final plan will reflect the commission’s goals of balancing the budget by 2035 by bringing spending down to 21 percent of gross domestic product.

“We are not going to fix it in the short term,” Chambliss said. “There is no silver bullet … you’ve got to put everything on the table.”

Chambliss and Warner also said they back the debt commission’s recommendation for gradual spending cuts in order to preserve the economic recovery. 

House Speaker-designate John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerIs Congress retrievable? Boehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader MORE (R-Ohio) is seeking to cut $100 billion in discretionary spending in 2011, which would be one of the largest single-year spending cuts in history. 

Warner said that it makes sense to take short-term actions to stimulate the economy, such as the tax-cut package that was negotiated by President Obama, even as lawmakers look for a long-term deficit strategy.

“We can walk and chew gum at the same time,” Warner said.

Chambliss said it will be important to agree on a deficit plan in the next 12 months so that implementation can begin shortly after the 2012 election. This would give lawmakers a buffer from the possible political fallout from approving spending cuts.

Both senators agree with the debt commission’s plan to eliminate tax breaks in order to lower tax rates. Chambliss in the past has backed the elimination of the income tax in favor of a national sales tax. He did not say whether he is insisting on that approach as part of the Chambliss-Warner bill.

Chambliss said the vote on the nation’s debt ceiling next spring provides an opportunity to advance deficit legislation. Warner said the debt ceiling or agreement on spending legislation, once the continuing resolution being voted on by the Senate on Tuesday expires, would be another opportunity. That CR would expire March 4.

Chambliss acknowledged that the bill will be an enormous piece of legislation, especially if it tackles entitlement reform. The commission's plan cut some benefits for Social Security and Medicare while increasing payroll taxes in order to make Social Security permanently solvent.

Maya MacGuineas of the New America Foundation, who has been working with the senators on the bill, said they plan to have it introduced in January. "This is the first time in so many years that there has been real leadership on this issue," she said in praise of the effort. MacGuineas said there in no way that President Obama's State of the Union address will fail to deal with the debt issue and the debt ceiling and CR extension provide excellent hooks to have a plan adopted.


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