Harkin, Grassley help sink deficit-cutting commission

Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley voted no on Tuesday as the Senate rejected an amendment to “establish a Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action, to assure the long-term fiscal stability and economic security of the Federal Government of the United States, and to expand future prosperity and growth for all Americans.”

President Barack Obama supported creating that commission, which is the brainchild of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad. The goal is to find some way to get big Social Security and Medicare cuts through Congress. Don’t get me started on why a Democratic president and a bunch of Democratic senators are so keen on cutting the most successful programs Democrats have ever enacted.

Anyway, Conrad’s idea was for the commission to work out a comprehensive deficit reduction strategy, which Congress would be not be empowered to amend before voting on it. Two decades ago, a similar procedure was developed for recommending military base closings to Congress.

Conrad’s amendment, offered to a bill that raises the U.S. debt ceiling, failed on a bipartisan 53-46 vote. 36 Democrats, 16 Republicans and Joe Lieberman voted for creating the deficit reduction commission, while 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and Bernie Sanders voted no (roll call here). Bloomberg News reported,

Conrad’s idea was attacked from the left and right, with groups such as the Washington-based anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform saying it would mean higher taxes while the AFL-CIO and NAACP said it would lead to cuts in federal benefits.

It was also opposed by lawmakers who lead congressional committees with authority over tax and spending programs. Among them are Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Tom Harkin of Iowa, head of the health-care panel.

Senate Republican Conference Chair Lamar Alexander told Politico that Obama needs to “produce a Democratic majority in favor of” this idea if he wants more Republicans to vote for it.

During tonight’s State of the Union address, Obama is expected to announce plans to create his own deficit reduction commission. Bloomberg noted yesterday that “Such a panel’s recommendations ordinarily could be ignored by lawmakers, although Conrad, North Dakota Democrat, is trying to negotiate an agreement to guarantee a vote.”

Too bad the wrong North Dakota Democrat is retiring from the Senate.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

  • I happen to like both Dorgan and Conrad

    Of course I like the entire Democratic caucus except for Whitehouse, Durbin, Schumer.  I never have found Bob Casey or Patty Murray to be very good at making an argument or writing legislation for that matter.  

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