Montana’s senior senator is one of three senators named to a 12-member bipartisan committee to find ways to cut the nation’s deficit.
“Some might say there is risk in serving on a committee with such a difficult task, but I believe there is far greater risk in not tackling our deficit problems head-on. It is a long overdue step to go beyond the partisanship and politics that have overwhelmed these discussions for months. The greatest risk we face is in doing nothing, ” Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat, said in a statement Tuesday after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed him to the committee. “Getting our fiscal house in order is one of our most serious challenges. ”
“Our country needs to stay strong and get stronger for generations to come, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address these issues in a balanced and practical way. ”
The committee, comprising three Democrats and three Republicans from the Senate and three of each party from the House, has been tasked with finding ways to cut the nation’s deficit, part of the last-minute deal approved last week to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
The House and Senate will have up-or-down votes to approve the committee’s proposal. If not approved, mandatory across-the-board cuts will be made to trim federal spending.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said in an interview in Havre Tuesday that he wants people to help with the work of the committee.
“If there’s programs out there that work, let us know. Let me know, let that committee know …, ” he said. “If there’s programs out there that can be done away with, they’re duplicative or whatever, let us know that too. Let’s talk about solutions.
“In my opinion, everything is on the table, ” Tester added.
He said that includes discretionary spending, war funding, entitlements, tax revenues, “all of the above. ”
Baucus said the parties, and houses of Congress, need to work together to find the solution.
“Millions of Americans are struggling in this tough economy, working overtime to pay the bills, find a job and find a way forward for their families, and they want the federal government to do the same without the unprecedented partisanship that has been plaguing our country in the last months, ” he said.
Tester said the same. The wrangling over finding a deal to raise the debt ceiling so the nation could continue to pay its bills must end, he said.
“The frustration … from folks out on the ground, I have that same frustration. I feel the same thing, ” he said. “I think it’s ridiculous that we can’t get together and work.
“I think that part of it is the fact that there are some real radical agendas out there, ” he added. “There’s folks who don’t want to touch the tax code and let the rich guys off the hook and destroy Medicare on the other side of the equation. It’s absolutely incredible. The fact is we’ve got to insert some common sense into this equation. ”
He said Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U. S. credit rating sent a message that shows solving the long-term structural problems of government spending is critical.
“It’s just a message that needed to be sent. More than anything it said as policy makers you need to be working together, ” Tester said. “And, if everybody heard it, we’re folks who are fully capable of working together. We just need to roll our sleeves up and do it. ”