Published November 06, 2011
As the Super Committee butts against a hard and fast deadline for reducing the deficit, a Republican and a Democratic lawmaker on Sunday say they must be willing to buck their leadership and go big on both cutting spending and adding revenues.
Reps. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, and Heath Shuler, D-N.C., are leading a group of 100 representatives who crafted a letter to the Super Committee calling for all options to be laid on the table in the quest to shave the federal debt. They are urging the panel to go past its mandate of $1.2 trillion over 10 years and find $4 trillion in debt reduction.
Less than $4 trillion "doesn't pay down our deficit," Simpson told "Fox News Sunday," whereas $1.2 trillion is just "kicking the can down the road and, frankly, we are out of road."
The Super Committee has until Nov. 23 to come up with its recommendations or face automatic cuts in military and entitlement spending. The congressmen said they may have to subvert their party leaders to get a deal done.
That's part of the reason why they organized the campaign of more than 100 House members and 45 senators.
"This is bipartisan way that we an support those 12 members and say, 'we have your back and we know you have to make difficult decision and choices that's going to impact us not only here in the U.S. but truly what's happened all over the world,'" Shuler said. "We need to continue to be the leaders of the world.
"We know it's tough and it gives them the opportunity to break from the leadership role," Shuler continued. "We have to see the middle of the road."
Simpson said that House Speaker John Boehner is working in good faith to encourage the Super Committee to reach an agreement, but the panel must act solely for what's best for the country, especially in the face of special interests. Simpson, who more than a decade ago signed a pledge from Americans for Tax Reform not to raise taxes, said additional revenues -- though not necessarily rates -- have to be part of the mix.
"Well, first the pledge, I signed that in 1998 when I first ran and I didn't know I was signing a marriage agreement that would last forever," he said.
"I know it sounds ridiculous and everything else. We've got to put aside our elections. We've got to put aside the Republican and Democrat," Simpson said. "We've got to put aside politics, and we've got to do what's right for the country. This is one time where I think it's critical. We've got once chance to fix this and this is that chance."
Simpson said it's merely a matter of math -- government revenue today as a percentage of GDP is about 14-15 percent, less than the traditional 18 percent. At the same time, government spending as a percentage of GDP has gone from around 19 percent to 25 percent.
"We got to bring those closer together again," he said.
Speaking on a separate program, Boehner said that talk about the Super Committee not reaching its Nov. 23 deadline -- and the concomitant impact of failure -- is overhyped.
Shuler and Simpson agreed that not coming up with a plan would be devastating to the country, not only because it would magnify Congress' dysfunction but because "the whole world is watching and the markets would tank.
"You know, the markets will either correct the situation or we will," Simpson said. "And who is going to suffer the most whenever the economy goes down? It's those who are less well off."
Shuler said in order to get past the pressure, it would be "much more helpful" if President Obama would lay off the national travel where he faults Congress for doing nothing and argues for higher taxes from millionaires and billionaires.
"Far too often, we've seen how politics has played such an important role in Washington, especially the closer we get to the presidential elections," Shuler said, adding if Obama supports one approach "that pushes of my colleagues on the other side in the opposite direction."
"So, I think, in one sense, if he's, you know, on the sidelines (that allows) the members of the Congress, and rank and file members to continue to grow in our numbers and support the Super Committee to do something big, $4 trillion-plus."
Simpson said eventually, all members of Congress need to be prepared to take a difficult vote that they don't like.
"If I'm going to make a difficult vote that I'm willing to make, I want it to mean something," he said.