Senate Budget Chair Defends Kicking the Can Down the Road
Why do today what you can put off until after Election Day?
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has a plan for solving the nation's debt crisis but doesn't expect anything to get done before the fall election.
"I think Senator [Harry] Reid has made the judgment, quite correctly, that there is very little chance that we're going to get the two sides together before the election," Conrad said on "Fox News Sunday" of the Senate majority leader.
Conrad believes the only way Congress can significantly reduce the deficit is through a bipartisan deal.
"We got to have a long-term plan," he said. "The only way you're going to have a long term that's sustainable is that we get Democrats and Republicans to agree."
Conrad joined the Senate in 1992 and is a staunch advocate for deficit reduction. The national debt has surpassed $15 trillion and is well on its way to $16 trillion.
Republicans blame Obama and Democrats for the debt increase while some economists attribute the jump to loss of revenue resulting from the recent economic downturn. Fiscal conservatives are worried that the interest on the debt will grow so large that the government will have to cut services to pay down the interest.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned Congress of the danger and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has described it as the most predictable crisis.
Conrad said, "What we need, I believe, is at least a 10-year plan. That's why I'm going to mark up the first week that we're back in session."
Republicans have characterized such an approach as cowardly. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., attacked Conrad's approach while on "Fox News Sunday" with the senator.
"So you got 23 Democratic Senate seats up. Sixteen of those Democratic senators are running for re-election," Johnson said. "They don't want their fingerprints on a plan,"
But Conrad believes that Congress will have no choice but to act after the election.
"After the election, when we're faced with all tax cuts expiring and we're faced with a sequester, that would be the time that people have more open minds," Conrad said.
The Budget Control Act (also known as the "Super Committee") mandates deep-reaching defense and health care cuts by 2013. Obama will also have a chance to negotiate for the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, which are also set to expire in 2013 because of a deal Obama cut at the end of 2010.
Obama will likely break a campaign pledge to cut the deficit by half in his first term. White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew argues that the administration couldn't have anticipated the scope of the nation's economic woes that have led to higher-than-expected spending.
Conrad has announced that he will not be seeking re-election this year.