Dozens of House and Senate Republicans and Democrats banded together today to urge the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to “go big” and seek a deal with a minimum of $4 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade.
Among the 45 or so lawmakers attending the news conference today were five members of the Gang of Six - a bipartisan group of senators who put together a plan earlier this year to cut the debt by $3.7 trillion.
Sen. Mark Warner, a former member of the Gang, joined the large group of his congressional colleagues to urge the committee to meet its mandate.
“Failure can’t be an option,” Warner, D-Va., said. “The whole rest of the world is watching, and the notion of what’s happening in Europe and their lack of stepping up — we can’t have the repeat of that here in this country.”
“Whether we like it or not, this debt and deficit debate has become, in effect, a proxy for whether our democratic institutions are up to the job in the 21st century,” he continued. “And I think you’re seeing behind us here a growing bipartisan group in both the House and the Senate that want to get the job done.”
With the Supercommittee seemingly deadlocked on a path forward, and widespread support for $4 trillion in savings from more than 100 House and Senate lawmakers, Warner was asked whether pressuring the leadership to vote on a previous debt reduction plan is a reasonable alternative. But Warner implored reporters to “to give the Supercommittee the time to finish their process.”
“We hope [the Supercommittee] will be successful,” Warner said. “Let’s let them get to the 23rd, and again, let’s hope they produce a big product.”
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a member of the Gang of Six deficit reduction panel, warned that if the committee does not reach a sizeable deal, Congress is “not going to send the right message” to the world marketplace.
“Supercommittee, we’ve got your back. We support you,” Chambliss, R-Ga., said. “We look forward to working with you on whatever course you decide to take to make sure that we do the right thing for the American people as well as to continue to show that America leads the financial free market.”
Idaho Republican Sen. Mike Crapo, another member of the Gang of Six, also said that the $4 trillion figure and the effort to go big “is not just an arbitrary number” but rather the minimum “to achieve the kind of fiscal reform in America that will help keep us the greatest nation and the greatest economy in the world.”
Sen. Kent Conrad, chairman of the Senate Budget committee and a key member of the Gang of Six, said that if other debt panels could reach a consensus on a big deal, so can the Supercommittee.
“This is a circumstance that requires us to work together. We know it’s tough, but we know it’s been done,” Conrad, D-N.D., said. “If they are bold, if they are brave, if they go big, we will stand with them, and the American people will stand with them.”
The Senate’s No. 3 Republican, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, urged Democrats to put more entitlement savings on the table while he called on Republicans to offer more tax revenues as well.
“This is about more than money. It’s about whether the president and the Congress can competently govern, about whether we can face up to the biggest problem facing our country and, working together, can we solve that problem,” Alexander said. “We now have Republicans who’ve put revenues on the table. We have Democrats on the Supercommittee who’ve put entitlements on the table. Both need to put more on the table and get a result, and we’re here to support them.”
The House’s No. 2 Democrat, Rep. Steny Hoyer, said Democrats and Republicans stand “united, to send a message of urgency and support” to members of the Supercommittee.
“The public doesn’t believe that we have good friends across the aisle. That’s not accurate. Nor do they believe we can work across the aisle,” Hoyer, a 16-term lawmaker from Maryland, said. “We’re here today to say we must work across the aisle, in both houses, to get this country on the right track.”
Blue Dog Democrat Rep. Heath Shuler said that the vote is not about partisan politics, but rather about doing the right thing for the country.
“This is about the American people, and this is about the next generation. We can’t turn our back on the next generation,” Shuler, D-N.C., said. “We must leave this country better than we found it, and the way that’s going to be done is through working together in a bipartisan way.”
The committee has until Nov. 23 to propose recommendations for the Congress to identify at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.