Strategies for Fiscal Sustainability in a Divided Congress

Special Guests: Don Bacon, Jared Golden, and Scott Peters

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This week on Facing the Future, we heard from three members of Congress who took part in a webinar titled, “Working Toward a Sustainable Fiscal Future in a Divided Congress.” The three congressmen, Don Bacon (R-NE), Jared Golden (D-ME) and Scott Peters (D-CA) were recipients of The Concord Coalition’s 2023 Economic Patriot Award, which is given each year for efforts to bring about a more fiscally sustainable path. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), who was also a 2023 honoree, was not able to participate in the webinar due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict. Concord Coalition policy director Tori Gorman and chief economist Steve Robinson joined the discussion. 

There was strong agreement on the panel that a new fiscal commission is needed to bridge the deep partisan divide standing in the way of consensus solutions to the unsustainable budget outlook. Representatives Peters and Huizenga are the lead sponsors of one such proposal, the Fiscal Commission Act of 2023.

“I’m a big fan of the debt commission,” Bacon said. “It allows us to put Democrat wins and Republican wins on the table in a balanced approach for an up or down vote.”

Golden said that a commission could play a valuable role in helping lawmakers prepare for the difficult choices that will be needed in the coming years as Social Security and Medicare face trust fund insolvency deadlines.

“Those deadlines,” he said, “will be a great source of political pressure that could lead Congress to take some steps. So the commission has really got to focus on putting together a good report with some clear bipartisan steps that can be taken such that it’s a relevant part of that conversation when it is forced upon Congress.”

Peters noted that the commission he has proposed with Rep Huizenga “is designed to give us a vote without amendment, up or down, on the floor of each chamber. Most people are skeptical of a commission that produces another report without a chance to vote. Let’s put it to a vote,” he said.

The three congressmen also described the political pressures that come from proposing any changes to important programs, as each of them has done, and the importance of explaining to their constituents why such changes are necessary.

Hear more on Facing the Future. I host the program each week on WKXL in Concord N.H., and it is also available via podcast. Join us as we discuss issues relating to national fiscal policy with budget experts, industry leaders, and elected officials. Past broadcasts are available here. You can subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or with an RSS feed. Follow Facing the Future on Facebook, and watch videos from past episodes on The Concord Coalition YouTube channel.

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