Budget director cuts time for supercommittee to reduce deficit
Congress‘ chief scorekeeper effectively shortened the window for the new deficit supercommittee to reach a deal, saying Tuesday that if lawmakers are going to meet their Thanksgiving deadline, his office will need to see an agreement at the beginning of November.
Kicking off the first hearing before the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas W. Elmendorf also boosted President Obama’s call for tax cuts and spending now coupled with a promise for fiscal restraint, saying that sort of plan can be consistent with deficit reduction and a stronger economy.
Still, he said, something must give over the long term. Taxes will have to rise dramatically or entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare, will have to be scaled back.
“The fundamental question for you is not how we got here but where you want the country to go; what role do you and your colleagues want the government to play in the economy and the society,” he said. “If you want a role that has benefit programs for older Americans like the ones we’ve had in the past and that operates the rest of the government like the ones we’ve had in the past, then more tax revenue is needed than under current tax rates.”
The supercommittee held its first hearing Tuesday as warnings about the government’s dire fiscal position grew.
**FILE** Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, testifies Sept. ... more >
Treasury Department figures showed the federal government ran a deficit of $134.2 billion in August, marking the 35th straight month the government has been in the red. With one month remaining in the fiscal year, the government’s deficit has already topped $1.23 trillion — just below last year’s pace.
The debt deal reached last month charged the 12-member supercommittee with producing at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts and tax increases by Thanksgiving, and the full Congress would have until Christmas to pass their recommendations. If they fail, automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion would be slated for future years.
Committee members already were feeling deadline pressure, and Mr. Elmendorf on Tuesday only added to it, saying they have about a month and a half left before submitting recommendations for scoring by the CBO.
“With all respect, your decisions really need to be mostly made by the beginning of November if you want to have real legislation and a cost estimate from CBO to go with that before you get to Thanksgiving,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, told reporters Tuesday he wasn’t sure how he would proceed on the jobs bill, though he blasted Republicans for rejecting it out of hand.
Mr. Reid said the tax cuts have enjoyed bipartisan support in the past and that the GOP should have at least embraced those.
“They just put a carte blanche, ‘We don’t like it.’ I think that’s unfortunate,” he said.
But Republicans said while some of the new provisions may have support, the way Mr. Obama paid for the bill was $467 billion in tax increases, most of which have faced bipartisan opposition in the past.
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