Deficit Reduction Plan Fails to Get the Votes It Needed

Washington – The bipartisan federal debt commission Friday got a majority of its 18 members to endorse its sweeping blueprint for slashing nearly $4 trillion from deficits.

But the 11 supporters of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform “Moment of Truth” plan were short of the 14 needed to send the package to Congress for votes.

Commission members nevertheless insisted their work was an important first step in the process of paring the record federal debt, and most of the dissenters agreed.

They noted how the plan got support across the political spectrum. Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill., backed the report, explaining, “I want progressive voices at the table to help protect the most vulnerable….today with my vote I’m claiming a seat at that table.”

Also endorsing the recommendations were Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., House Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt, D-S.C., and Republican Sens. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

The dissenters were nonetheless optimistic the report would spark a movement to engage in serious fiscal policy negotiations.

“This is a plan worth of consideration,” said Rep. Xavier Beccera, D-Calif., who was opposed.

But the failure to gain enough support also highlighted the kinds of problems Congress and the White House are likely to face in the months ahead.

Democrats like Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., was opposed because she was concerned about spending cuts that would mean benefits reductions for Social Security recipients, Medicare patients and others.

“Those who have not joined the prosperity party the last couple years are being asked to pick up too much of the tab,” she said.

Republicans like Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., slated to become House Ways and Means Committee Chairman next month, was also a no. He saw the report as a launching pad for tax increases, and lamented how it did little to reduce health care costs.

“Health care spending is the number one driver of our debt and if we are serious about reigning in entitlement spending, the health care law must be part of that effort,” he said.

The fiscal 2010 deficit was $1.29 trillion. The commission recommends capping spending in virtually all government programs through 2020 except for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and some national security programs..

It also revamps the tax system so that instead of the current five income tax rates, there would be three: 8, 14 and 23 percent. But it would end about $1.1 trillion in popular tax breaks, such as certain mortgage interest deductions.