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Despite not having taken any action to pass an annual budget for the United States government of any kind for almost two and a quarter years, it appears that the current majority Democratic Party in the Senate may finally have developed a blueprint for the federal budget, one that even promises to reduce the U.S. national debt.
The bad news: they apparently aren’t very serious about it. The Washington Post‘s Lori Montgomery reports:
Senate Democrats have drafted a sweeping debt-reduction plan that would slice $4 trillion from projected borrowing over the next decade without touching the expensive health and retirement programs targeted by President Obama.
Instead, Senate Democrats are proposing to stabilize borrowing through sharp cuts at the Pentagon and other government agencies, as well as $2 trillion in new taxes, primarily on families earning more than $1 million year, according to a copy of the plan obtained by The Washington Post.
With debt-reduction talks under way between Obama and congressional leaders, Senate Democrats are unlikely to adopt the blueprint. However, it has gained broad support among those eager to chart a path to solving the nation’s budget problems without making politically painful cuts to Social Security and Medicare.
As for the motivation to suddenly snap into action after sitting on the debt reduction sidelines for so long, an anonymous “Senate Democrat” explains:
“The very strong feeling was we needed to get this into the conversation, because it provides an alternative view,” said a Senate Democrat familiar with the blueprint, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it has not been publicly released. “What’s striking is how modest the changes need to be to get us back on track.”
Imagine how much more modest the changes would need to be if they had been acted upon more than a year ago. . . .
Still, the Senate Democrats’ secret blueprint contrasts quite a bit with the more serious debt reduction proposals that have actually been put on the table:
Republicans dismissed the Democratic blueprint, saying higher taxes would be devastating to an economy already weighed down by a 9.2 percent unemployment rate. In their spending plan, House Republicans proposed to save $4 trillion entirely through spending cuts; they would also eliminate Medicare as an open-ended entitlement after 2021.
“If they’re calling for $2 trillion in tax hikes in the middle of a jobs crisis, it’s little wonder that it’s been 800 days since Senate Democrats passed a budget,” said McConnell spokesman Don Stewart.
As for those more serious discussions, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) suggested on Friday, July 8, 2011, that a deal may be forthcoming in the very near future:
Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner told his Republican members on Thursday that chances of reaching a budget deal within the next few days “was maybe 50-50,” a party aide said.
“Whether or not it happens is really dependent on whether they (Democrats) continue to insist on tax hikes” over Republican objections, the aide said. Boehner offered his assessment at a closed-door meeting with members shortly before White House talks with President Barack Obama and other congressional leaders.
And that’s where things stand today. Stay tuned! . . .