As spending proposals from both sides of the aisle fail to pass the Senate, Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer says it's time to "hit the reset button" on the budget debate.
"It isn't often that two failed votes in the Senate could be called a breakthrough, [but] once it is plain that both parties' opening bids in this budget debate are non-starters, we can finally get serious about sitting down and narrowing the huge gap that exists between the two sides," the New York senator said during remarks at left-wing think tank Center for American Progress Wednesday morning.
Schumer targeted the House GOP proposal for a seven-month continuing resolution--which would fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2011 at current spending levels, less $61 billion in discretionary spending--claiming those cuts would not lead to significant deficit reduction. In actuality, Schumer argued, the cuts would end vital programs while reducing the deficit by only about $5 billion, or 0.3 percent.
"Right now a very small, very intense ideological tail is wagging the dog over in the House of Representatives," Schumer said. "Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit reduction at all. Instead the far right wing has deliberately confused two separate issues: they've conflated reducing the deficit, which is not their true priority, with cutting government, which is."
Instead, Schumer suggested comparing budget plans by how much they reduce the deficit and taking an "all of the above" approach to find areas of the budget from which to cut, including raising taxes, eliminating tax loopholes, and remedying overlaps and inefficiencies in Medicare and Medicaid. While Schumer was willing to take a look at reducing usually politically off-limits government subsidies to agriculture, he said the traditional third rail of Social Security didn't play enough of a factor in deficit reduction to reduce that entitlement at all.
Additionally, Schumer insisted lawmakers follow the example of the so-called "Gang of Six"--a bipartisan group of senators working to incorporate findings of the president's debt commission into long-term budget proposals--and apply deficit-reduction suggestions like reducing waste in defense spending to FY'11 spending bills.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday the administration supports an approach to cutting the deficit that goes beyond discretionary spending, but fell short of offering specific programs and areas to cut.
"[W]e welcome the thoughtful input of lawmakers on this issue," Carney said at his daily briefing. "It is vitally important that we all recognize what the President made clear in his State of the Union, which--you cannot get your fiscal house in order if you only go after 12 percent of the budget, and that's what non-defense discretionary spending amounts to."