Why House conservatives are offering fresh plan on federal debt
Reeling from the reaction to Rep. Paul Ryan's proposal to reform Medicare, an influential group of House Republicans offers an alternative plan to lock in spending and rein in the federal debt.
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In a separate move, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Monday called for reducing the size of the federal workforce by 10 percent by 2015. With 400,000 federal employees currently eligible for retirement, “We cannot let this opportunity to save taxpayer money pass,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R) of Florida, who chairs the subcommittee on the federal workforce, postal service, and labor policy, in a statement.Skip to next paragraph
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The measure, expected to save taxpayers $128 billion during the next 10 years, allows the federal government to hire only one employee to replace every three that retire.
While Vice President Joe Biden is leading ongoing, bipartisan negotiations over raising the federal debt limit, there appears to be little expectation of and early compromise between House Republicans and Senate Democrats. The disconnect between the two bodies is so marked that leaders no longer schedule recesses at the same time. Counting this week, when the Senate returns and the House leaves town, the two bodies have been in session at the same time only one of the past three weeks.
With Democrats opposing entitlement cuts and Republicans opposing tax hikes, “that means that there’s not a lot left to do a deal with the debt,” says Michael Franc, vice president for government affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. “The two sides have locked into positions that don’t augur very well for a big deal. So what the RSC is doing is describing what the right wall of the debate looks like.”
Senate Democrats, who face defending 23 seats in the 2012 campaign, are not proposing their own budget for 2012 on the grounds that a bipartisan solution may be forthcoming from Biden talks. But Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada says that entitlements will not be on the table.
And other Democrats have said that the budget debate should be separate from the vote about the federal debt ceiling. Sens. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa and Jack Reed (D) of Rhode Island are calling for a bipartisan vote to raise the debt limit without conditions. To risk default is irresponsible, they said in a teleconference call Friday.
In the Bush era, “I would say offhand that 90-plus percent of Democrats … believed that we should change the tax structure and end a lot of the tax breaks to the wealthiest in this country, but we didn’t hold up raising the debt ceiling,” said Senator Harkin.