Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) received the 2011 Paul E. Tsongas Economic Patriot Award at The Concord Coalition’s annual dinner Wednesday night in Washington.
Former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), a member of Concord’s board of directors, praised the two senators – who have led the Senate’s bipartisan “Gang of Six” — for their political courage in seeking broad fiscal reforms. Chambliss called this “the issue of our lifetime” while Warner said the public had the right to expect elected officials to take action and declared: “This should not be so tough.”
The two senators were then joined by four other budget experts for a panel discussion on the country’s fiscal, economic and demographic challenges. They agreed that Congress should pursue more deficit reduction than the targets set in last summer’s legislation to increase the federal debt limit. Panel members differed, however on the likelihood of effective action before next year’s elections.
The other four panel members were former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-In.), Brookings Senior Fellow Alice Rivlin, Comeback American Initiative CEO David Walker and Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert Bixby. The moderator was Candy Crowley, CNN’s chief political correspondent.
Other topics addressed by panel members included the difficulties faced by political moderates in Washington, the importance of public engagement in deficit-reduction efforts, voters’ disenchantment with Congress, and the reasons why a comprehensive fiscal reform effort is more likely to succeed than a piecemeal approach.
A video of the program will be posted on Concord’s website as soon as it becomes available.