Fiscal task force faces key vote Tuesday

  • Article by: JILL BURCUM
  • Updated: January 25, 2010 - 6:04 PM

Putting the nation’s fiscal house in order? Or an admission that Congress can’t govern any longer?

That’s the question the U.S. Senate will weigh on Tuesday as a key vote looms on the Conrad-Gregg Bipartisan Fiscal Task Force — an unwieldy name for a proposal that would take a ‘base closure’ approach to reining the nation’s soaring deficits.

The proposal, if it becomes reality, would essentially punt these decisions to an 18-member panel made of up Congressional representatives from both parties, as well as administration officials. The panel would look at revenue and spending, and then make spending cut recommendations.

Congress would still vote on the cuts in an expedited process, but it’s thought that the bipartisan panel would insulate the process somewhat from special interests and politics as usual. It might also give elected officials some cover when it comes to necessary but radioactive measures to rein in spending on popular entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

A senator from the neighboring state of North Dakota, Democrat Kent Conrad is leading the charge on this, along with Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. In a recent commentary column published in The Hill, they wrote: "Some have argued that House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over health, retirement and revenue issues should individually take up legislation to address the imbalance.But that path will never work. The inability of the regular legislative process to meaningfully act on this couldn’t be clearer. Experts have warned for decades of the coming fiscal tsunami, yet, little has been done about it in recent years except to exacerbate the problem. And the longer Congress and the administration wait to act, the harder the choices become. We need to establish policies now that will kick in after the current economic downturn has ended that phase in over time solutions to ensure the longterm fiscal stability of the federal government."

President Obama has also lent his support to the measure; Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar also voiced support for the measure when she met with the Star Tribune Editorial Board recently.

But it will still be a tough sell. Many Congressional representatives believe that voters sent people to Washington to do this — and that politicians can and should tackle these challenges. It's a worthy argument, but one undercut by the nation's soaring deficits and runaway entitlement spending. Congress has had plenty of time to act. It hasn't and despite all the rhetoric against the Conrad-Gregg proposal, it's not going to. Politics has become the enemy rather than the facilitator of decisionmaking.

The Conrad-Gregg proposal is one of the few options left to balance the nation's books, and Congress should seize the opportunity it presents.

To read Sen. Conrad’s floor statement from Monday, click HERE.

 

 

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