Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad has proposed a sweeping fiscal reform plan based on the recommendations of a bipartisan majority of the President’s fiscal commission. The Concord Coalition applauds Conrad’s proposal, as it did a recent bipartisan plan in the House that would also follow through on the commission’s work.
“The easy course for Senator Conrad would have been to simply lay out one more partisan budget plan for Washington to argue over,” says Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “Instead, he is doing something far more valuable. He is laying down a nonpartisan marker that was supported by a bipartisan majority on the President’s commission and a bipartisan group of House members, and encouraged by a bipartisan group of 64 in the Senate. This ambitious deficit-reduction plan would put the country on a more responsible course without jeopardizing the economic recovery.”
The plan, developed by members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Simpson-Bowles), puts everything on the table: defense, regular domestic spending, the entitlement programs and taxes.
Conrad (D-N.D.) introduced his proposal at a Senate Budget Committee meeting Wednesday. However, no amendments were considered and no votes were taken. Conrad said he hoped the proposal could serve as a starting point for discussions over a long-term budget plan later this year, perhaps after the election. The chances of passing such a plan now, he said, were “slim.”
Some lawmakers in both parties praised his budget plan. But Republicans on the committee expressed disappointment that no further action on it was planned soon, with Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) saying that Conrad’s fellow Democrats were seeking to avoid difficult public votes.
Republicans also hammered at Democratic resistance to approving a budget resolution for the coming fiscal year. Democrats say that is unnecessary because of spending levels set in last summer’s law raising the debt limit, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said the Senate will not take up a budget resolution this year. Concord has urged the Senate to do so.