Continued from page 1

The committee is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in tax increases or spending cuts over the next decade. Their report is due by Thanksgiving, and Congress must act by Christmas, or else automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending will go into effect, though their impact would be delayed.

Dominating the debate is the philosophical divide. Democrats are urging tax increases, saying the government needs more money to fulfill all of the social safety-net promises it has built up through the decades. The GOP, meanwhile, says government spending accounts for a quarter of the economy and is growing and that it must be pared by at least 20 percent.

Complicating matters, many of the committee’s members voted for the policies that landed the government in its deep hole.

Seven of them voted for December’s tax-cut and spending deal that boosted the deficit by tens of billions of dollars, six of them voted for the 2001 tax cuts, another six voted for the 2003 tax cuts, seven voted for the Iraq War, and six voted for 2003’s Medicare prescription drug bill that was projected to add nearly $400 billion to the deficit over a decade.

By contrast, just four voted for Republicans’ 2005 budget reconciliation bill that cut spending by $100 billion over a decade.

But 10 of the 12 members did vote this year to cut off government support for the ethanol industry, suggesting an appetite to tackle breaks written into the tax code.

Meanwhile, a Congressional Budget Office analysis released Thursday said that cutting spending now could dent the economy in the short term, but would pay off with a stronger economy within a decade.