Erskine Bowles and former Senator Alan Simpson, the co-chairs of President Obama's fiscal commission, say they have revised their original plan for deficit reduction in hopes of getting more votes. Now, they will delay a final vote from Wednesday until Friday to give people a chance to review it.
But they say one major aspect of the sweeping plan has not changed.
Former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles says the proposal has "3.8 trillion in deficit reduction in the next 9 years. We cut the deficit in half by 2015 and three quarters by 2020."
And, he says, the revised plan will not be "watered down."
Bowles and Simpson hope to get 14 out of 18 votes for the new version, in which case Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has pledged to bring the plan before the new Senate for a vote.Whatever happens, they say, they have accomplished one of their key goals.
"It's basically been to start an adult conversation here in Washington about the dangers of this debt and the deficits we're running," Bowles said. "It is the exact same conversation that every single family, every single business, every state and every municipality has been having for the last several years."
And former Senator Simpson adds, "America, you have a serious problem and time is short to address it."
The two men didn't get the new numbers on the amount of savings in the revised plan until nearly 3 a.m. this morning, so they want to give other members of the commission until Friday to fully understand it before they vote on it.
Their original plan included a multi-year freeze on both domestic and defense spending. It also called for an end to all tax deductions, affecting wealthier taxpayers the most, but also ending the home mortgage deduction.
The co-chairs say commissioners were welcome to add deductions back in, as long as they identified how to pay for them.
The always colorful Simpson is expecting an onslaught from interest groups.
"The far left and the far right have hired auditoriums to terrorize their minions," he says. "They're going to rip this thing to shreds, and do it with zeal."
He adds, "I define a zealot [as] one who, forgetting his purpose, redoubles his efforts."
It is clear Simpson thinks interest groups will try to divert a conversation he believes is essential to keep the United States from facing a serious financial crisis.
But he flatly rejects the criticisms already raised by some on the left."We are not balancing the books of America on the backs of poor Social Security recipients," he explains. "I mean, that's babble. We have put together something that protects the lower income, 125% of poverty, as well as the old."
In other words, they would ask wealthier taxpayers to pay more and get less while protecting the poor and the very elderly.
Bowles acknowledges that the "solutions are painful."
"There are no easy choices and no easy way out," he says.
So the debate is joined. Of course, it is only just the beginning but getting even this far, both men say, means that "the era of deficit denial in Washington is over."