This is the committee formed as part of the deal to re-open the government and avoid the debt ceiling. It isn’t much of a giveaway, as Conference Committees are the usual order of business in Congress after budgets have passed the House and Senate. This Conference Committee — as would others — is meant to negotiate a single budget from the two that have passed. Senator Chris Coons is on this committee as a result of his being on the Senate Budget Committee.
The group has until Dec. 13 to come up with an agreement on a budget for fiscal 2014, which began Oct. 1. But it has authority to lay the foundation for a long-term solution that some have called a “grand bargain.” That could include a package of large debt-reduction proposals such as entitlement reforms, spending cuts and tax increases.
“If the other party really will not agree to a single dime of revenue and if they are expecting my party to make major concessions on Medicare and Medicaid in order to get any concessions on revenue, we will not have a very productive negotiation,” he said. “Everything has to be on the table.”
The $966 billion House spending plan would balance the budget in 10 years through deep cuts in programs affecting low-income households while reducing tax rates for individuals and corporations.
It also would repeal the 2010 Affordable Care Act. And it would cut Medicare spending by offering vouchers to help new beneficiaries pay premiums for low-cost insurance, starting in 2024, and by raising the eligibility age, beginning in 2024. The eligibility age would eventually reach 67.
The $1.058 trillion Senate budget offers a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. It aims to reduce the debt and replace the automatic spending cuts that took effect this year.
Both of them are hellbent on a level of austerity that isn’t helping the economy. The Democratic program is somewhat better in that it wants to start eliminating some unnecessary tax breaks or subsides and wants to do some infrastructure spending.
Coons said his priorities include protecting money for Amtrak and promoting investments in infrastructure and research and development.
Notice what is missing here? Concessions on Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security seem to be off of the table if the Rs won’t agree to more revenue. But then what? Social Security in particular is still a dumb bargaining chip — any slowing of the growth of Social Security is basically slowing how fast Congress has to pay back the Treasuries that are securing those payments.
This is a serious question — as blue as this state is, with as many retirees there are here, what in heaven’s name is the downside for Coons to support making Social Security solvent rather than trading away *growth*, which takes money right out of the pockets of seniors and soon-to-be-seniors.
Delaware’s senior senator, Tom Carper, favors the approach recommended by the so-called Simpson-Bowles Commission, which in 2010 released a long-term deficit-reduction proposal that leaned on discretionary spending caps and tax, Medicare and Social Security reform to achieve savings. It didn’t gain the majority votes required to send the proposal before Congress.
Carper, a Democrat, agrees that rapid growth in government outlays, more than half of which come from entitlement programs such as Medicare, must be stayed without hurting those such programs are meant to help.
“We have to find ways to be able to slow that growth,” he said, “but do so in a way that doesn’t savage old people and poor people,” Carper said. “I’m convinced we can do that.”
Take a good look at those last two sentences on Carper’s position. He’s still on All the Government You Can Eat for Free and *that* is exactly how we got here in the first place.