Published November 27, 2011
With the Super Committee failing to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years, lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates say they now want to go back to the beginning -- and are looking at proposals already on the table.
In just the past year, at least three options have been put in the mix -- a $4 trillion, 10-year plan offered by President Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, also known as the Simpson-Bowles committee. Proposed in December 2010, it failed to get the 14-vote super majority to get to a vote in Congress.
A $6 trillion, 10-year plan plan proposed by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan passed the House in mid-April but it stopped dead in the Senate after Democrats complained it cut too much from Medicare.
Shortly after the Ryan plan stalled, a "Gang of Six" group of senators proposed nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years. That fell apart in July after it received criticism for not doing enough to cut entitlement growth while proposing too much in tax hikes.
As for the Super Committee, panel Republicans offered a program dubbed the Toomey plan that backers said raised plenty of revenue without raising tax rates.
Senate Democrats countered that their plan exceeded entitlement savings proposed by the president's Simpson-Bowles committee and increased taxes by $1 trillion over 10 years, similar to the gang's hikes.
Everyone has a favorite.
"We've actually had one body, the House, pass a responsible budget that cuts spending, doesn't raise taxes," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, which calls for no new taxes to pay for increases in spending.
"The Paul Ryan plan, which the Republican House has already passed. That was a $6 trillion spending restraint," he said.
"My plan for debt spending is the Ryan plan," said former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, a 2012 hopeful, referring to the president's task force. "I think what Ryan is talking about with $6.2 trillion cut out of the budget over 10 years is exactly where the country needs to be."
"I spoke with a number of Democratic senators who were not serving on the Super Committee who thought that the plan that we put forward was very constructive, was reasonable," said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who developed the GOP approach on the panel. "So I think there's a chance to work with some of the more moderate members of the Democratic caucus, who want to make progress, who realize how important this is."
Toomey's proposal to the Super Committee included raising revenues by reducing the number of tax credits and deductions to the code but also lowering the top rate from 35 percent to 28 percent. Other rates would also fall.
Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said that plan would have raised $250 billion more than was needed to get to the $1.2 trillion in reductions that the Super Committee was assigned to find.
"The Bowles-Simpson Commission said: raise whatever revenue you can and apply it to reducing rates. We did that in the Toomey plan," he said.
But Sen. Dick Durbin, who was a member of the Bowles-Simpson panel, said that what Republicans on the the Super Committee proposed looked nothing like the Bowles-Simpson proposal.
"What we've got to do is establish the basics: $2 in cuts for every $1 in revenue," he said.
"There was a commitment in Bowles-Simpson to at least maintain if not improving the progressivity of the tax code," added Durbin, D-Ill. "That means giving working families a fighting chance. I hope we can establish that as one of the principles in future deficit reduction."
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Democrats came back and lowered the amount of taxes they wanted to increase after Republicans complained. He added that Democrats also offered "significant entitlement savings reform" that exceeded the Simpson-Bowles proposal.
"Everyone said that's a very, very serious measure," he said.
But in the end, the two sides still are looking for common ground.
"The one good consensus we have on both Democratic and Republican sides, is that we have to reduce the deficit," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
A member of the gang, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said last week that the group will reconvene after the Thanksgiving break to come up with new legislation. But in an interview with The Associated Press, even Chambliss tried to minimize expectations.
Until or unless a deal happens, lawmakers and observers expect to stand their ground, and run on it as well.
"2012 is going to be a very good year for Democrats because the big political landscape plates are changing," Schumer said. "Last year, cut the government, cut the government, cut the government. And the Tea Party was ascending. That's being discredited by the American people now. ...
"What has come to the fore is income inequality, and helping the middle class," Schumer continued. "That puts the wind at our backs, and I would predict that President Obama is going to win that's very likely, and it's very, very likely that we're going to keep the Senate, because the whole battleground has changed."
"If you want to raise taxes to pay for Obama's bigger government, then you vote for the Democrats, for crying out loud. If you think we should bring the size of government down to what America can afford, then you would vote for the Republicans," Norquist said.
"It's the Democrats whose position is that the only problem in Washington, D.C., is the peasants aren't sending enough tax in for the king to spend," he added.
Kyl and Durbin appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Toomey was a guest on ABC's "This Week." Schumer and Norquist appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press."