A bipartisan group of senators gathered Thursday to tout the addition of two new co-signatories to "The CAP Act" - a bill that sets binding, across-the-board (including defense) caps on federal spending, something Bob Corker, R-Tenn., author of the bill, called a "fiscal straitjacket." Corker, joined by his original co-sponsor, Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., welcomed Tea Party-backed Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., into the fold, after which Lieberman promptly called it a "tripartisan" bill (haha).
As lawmakers in the House and Senate tussle over spending cuts, nearly shuttering the government, and with a vote to raise the nation's credit limit looming, the group touted their bill, which would force spending over 10 years down to 20.6 percent of GDP (it's nearly 25 percent now), as a possible way to win votes from those members who have refused to increase the so-called debt ceiling unless it is attached to a deficit reduction package.
But the group's sales pitch to Democrats is going to have to get a whole lot better in order for that to happen, as only three Democrats are on board with the Corker-McCaskill plan at this point. That includes Lieberman, who caucuses with Democrats, and a mystery Dem Corker said would be announcing support from his/her home state next week.
Lieberman made it crystal clear that he won't vote for any debt ceiling increase until something is approved that is "real tough and effective to guarantee that our debt will begin to be cut." The senator said something similar to Fox's Neil Cavuto recently, but then Lieberman added this, a veritable nail in coffin for anyone thinking they could get a "clean" increase, "I know that there's risk in voting against the increase in our debt ceiling, BUT I've concluded that the risk of not doing something to force us to cut our debt is actually riskier for our country. And the rewards of cutting the debt are very great for our economy, our country, and our people."
But not everyone was of a like mind. Johnson said he would not agree to increase the debt ceiling if the CAP Act was passed, saying he also needed a constitutional balanced budget amendment to be approved before he would give his "aye" vote. the others seemed agreeable.
As for the balanced budget amendment, McCaskill said she would agree to it, but that won't get supporters, including all 47 Republicans and Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., to the 67 votes they need for passage.
Under the Corker-McCaskill legislation, if Congress fails to meet a stipulated annual cap, the Office of Management and Budget is required to take action evenly distributing cuts throughout the federal budget to bring spending down to the pre-determined level. "Only a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress could override the binding cap," a Corker document states.
And in a move that puts McCaskill squarely at odds with her leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, the bill, for the first time, eliminates a special distinction for Social Security that it out of the reach of budget and deficit calculations. Reid has vehemently resisted any attempt to change Social Security, saying recently, "Social Security has not contributed one penny to the deficit. Leave Social Security alone."
McCaskill defiantly said, "If anyone looks you in the eye and says we don't have to do something about Medicare and Social Security, they frankly don't understand the numbers and they don't understand the budget and don't understand what the next 20 years can look like."
Additional cosponsors of the CAP Act include Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Richard Burr, R-N.C., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Mike Crapo R-Idaho, Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Mark Kirk, R-Ill., Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and John McCain, R-Ariz..