In the midst of the leadership of a committee tasked with cutting the nation’s deficit admitting defeat, members of Montana’s congressional delegation say now is the time to move forward to find solutions to the nation’s deficit.
Their comments came after the leadership of the “supercommittee” tasked with cutting the deficit admitted defeat on Monday.
“After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline, ” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction said in a joint statement issued Monday.
Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was part of the 12-member committee.
“While I’m deeply disappointed that some members of the committee chose to miss an incredible opportunity today, I’m not giving up because the nation’s mounting deficit still requires a courageous solution, ” Baucus said in a statement following Murray and Hensarling’s announcement. “Montanans and all Americans deserve better. Tomorrow is a new day with new opportunities to tackle our fiscal deficit and our jobs deficit — which go hand in hand. ”
The committee was formed as part of negotiations in the crafting of the current federal budget and to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
Three Republicans and three Democrats from the House and the Senate were appointed to find a way to reduce the national deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
Both houses of Congress would have had to give an up-or-down vote, with no amendments, on the proposal, before Christmas.
With the committee’s failure, $1 trillion in automatic cuts split between defense and domestic spending are supposed to go into effect over the next 10 years.
Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., who is challenging Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., in the 2012 election, said after the announcement that his proposal — saving $1.2 trillion by cutting some of the main parts of the health care reform passed by Congress in 2010 — still could provide the savings.
“There is absolutely no reason the Supercommittee cannot succeed. It’s been nearly two months since I put forward a common-sense solution, and last month, I introduced it as a stand-alone measure, ” Rehberg said in a statement released after the co-chair’s announcements. “It’s ready to go and if passed, it would help the Supercommittee achieve the entirety of its goal without needing to raise taxes or cut a single penny of existing benefits. ”
Rehberg’s proposal primarily rescinds expanding Medicaid income eligibility to 133 percent of the federal poverty line and preventing tax credits to help people pay for health insurance. It also repeals provisions on long-term care insurance, the CLASS Act, already cut by the White House from the health care reform programs.
Tester said in a release that the committee’s admission of failure is not the end of the process, and much more needs to be done to cut the deficit and create jobs.
“Earlier this year, Congress cut nearly $1 trillion in spending, but much more needs to be done. I will continue to work with all Republicans and Independents and Democrats who understand that our future is more important than being tied to special interests, ” Tester said. “Using the bipartisan plan put forward by the Debt Commission and the work of the bipartisan Gang of Six, I am eager to keep working together to find common ground, where we can and must ‘go big’ in our efforts to cut spending and cut the deficit. ”
All three of Montana’s federal lawmakers were quick to point the blame for the committee’s failure at partisan interests.
“Some folks in Washington are too worried about politics to do what’s right, ” was Baucus’ comment in his release.
Tester said politicians allowed their political stance to overshadow what needed to be done, including signing Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge preventing changing tax codes from being part of the discussion.
“This stalemate is a result of some politicians who refused to put everything on the table and find common ground, ” Tester said. “For them, a stalemate that takes us backward is more important than an agreement that takes us forward.
“These politicians are more beholden to a lobbyist's pledge than to the American people and to future generations, ” Tester added. “They are dead-set on preserving tax loopholes for big corporations and the wealthiest Americans, even if it means wiping out Medicare and Social Security. ”
Rehberg — who introduced legislation in February to prohibit funding the health care reform act — said the fact the supercommittee refused to consider cutting health reform funding shows the failure of the whole concept behind it.
“The fact that ideas like mine have never been seriously considered by the Supercommitttee underlines a fundamental shortcoming of the Supercommittee structure, ” he said. “In place of 12 people, why not throw the doors open to the genius of the American public. Let’s make this an open, transparent process that solicits ideas from all corners of the country. There is no excuse for failure. ”
But Baucus added that work to help stimulate the economy and improve the national situation have passed this year, and work can continue.
“I’ll keep fighting for Montana jobs — today we signed my vets tax credit into law, and I’m still fighting for a highway bill that will support thousands of jobs by investing in our transportation infrastructure, ” Baucus said Monday in his release. “As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I’ll keep looking for ways to bring fairness to the tax code by looking for a payroll tax cut, doc fix (which prevents cuts to Medicaid and Medicare payments to doctors) and ways to improve unemployment insurance.
“The bottom line here is that while the Joint Select Committee could not come up with a deficit plan reduction Montanans and all Americans deserve, I am not done working and I’ll keep fighting for a solution that works for Montana, ” Baucus added.