Bipartisan plea for $4 trillion in deficit cuts: why it could work
A bipartisan group of 100 House members will call for the deficit 'super committee' to make massive deficit cuts – even if it means entitlement or tax reform. The strong backing could be key.
In a rare flicker of bipartisanship, at least 100 House members, half Democrats and half Republicans, are going public next week with a letter urging Congress’s deficit “super committee” to aim for a big, grand bargain – taking nothing off the table.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Who's who on the US deficit super committee
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The Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction has until Nov. 23 to produce a plan to reduce the federal deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Amid concerns that the panel may be sliding into gridlock, this bipartisan fiscal group aims to show that there is a critical mass of House members willing to take political risks to support a significant deficit-reduction plan.
The intervention of a strong, bipartisan group in the House could persuade House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio to back the bill – support that would be crucial to its passage. Moreover, the letter could be timely.
Until recently, the 12-member deficit panel has maintained a tight embargo on leaks – typically a sign that closed-door negotiations are serious and trust is prevailing. But this week, bargaining positions began leaking, along with reports of tough, partisan pushback.
On Tuesday, aides apparently leaked a report that Sen. Max Baucus (D) of Montana, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee, had proposed $3 trillion in deficit reduction, including at least $1 trillion in tax hikes – a nonstarter for Republicans. Republicans reportedly responded with calls for more of the burden of debt reduction to come from entitlement cuts, a nonstarter for Democrats.
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The letter could reestablish the fraying sense of trust.
“We want to make the committee believe that there are people on both sides of the aisle supportive of their efforts and to show the American people that, though there are some difficulties, the Congress is not completely broken,” says nine-term Rep. Steve LaTourette (R) of Ohio.
Such bipartisan groups, a.k.a. “gangs,” are common in the Senate, especially at times of institutional crisis, but have been rare in the House, where House rules and party leaders hold stronger sway.
Led by Reps. Mike Simpson (R) of Idaho and Health Shuler (D) of North Carolina, lawmakers began meeting informally in the runup to the summer’s debt-limit crisis to seek common ground on fiscal issues. When the joint deficit committee was created to help break the impasse, the group switched gears to help support that effort.
After weeks of private discussions, the group settled on a plan to reach out to colleagues to build support for a big deal along the lines that President Obama and Speaker Boehner discussed and appeared close to agreeing to until talks collapsed in July.
“The language was negotiated. The Democrats went on their way and we went on ours in an attempt to convince members of our party to sign,” says Congressman LaTourette.