- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan went down to a crushing defeat in the House late Wednesday night in a vote that damages the one bipartisan proposal that just a few months ago had seemed like a possible solution to the country’s debt woes.

The 382-38 defeat, with just 16 Republicans and 22 Democrats voting for it, marks a bad end to what began nearly two years ago, when President Obama tapped former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican, to lead a deficit-reduction committee.

Their report has popped up in every deficit discussion since then, but had never gotten a vote in either chamber until this week, when opponents prevailed.

“This doesn’t go big. This doesn’t tackle the problem. This doesn’t do the big things,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the Budget Committee. “You can never get the debt under control if you don’t deal with our health care entitlement programs.”

The debate came as the House worked its way through its fiscal year 2013 budget plan, which Mr. Ryan wrote.

The Bowles-Simpson plan was offered as an alternative on the chamber floor.

Minutes earlier, the House also defeated Mr. Obama’s own budget, submitted last month, on a 414-0 vote arranged by Republicans to embarrass the president and officially shelve his plan.

“It’s not a charade. It’s not a gimmick — unless what the president sent us is the same,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who sponsored Mr. Obama’s proposal for purposes of the debate. “I would encourage the Democrats to embrace this landmark Democrat document and support it. Personally, I will be voting against it.”

The House also defeated an alternative offered by the Congressional Black Caucus that would have included $4 trillion in additional tax increases on top of those Mr. Obama proposed, and used that money to boost spending on domestic programs. That plan was killed 314-107.

But the Bowles-Simpson plan was the most anticipated vote of the evening, earning its first-ever vote in either chamber.

“There’s a consensus in america we have to reduce our deficit,” said Rep. Rob Andrews, New Jersey Democrat.

“Most of it should be by cutting spending, and some of it should be in revenue contribution by the wealthiest Americans.”

The plan was sponsored by Rep. Jim Cooper, Tennessee Democrat, and Rep. Steve LaTourette, Ohio Republican, and was backed by Mr. Bowles and Mr. Simpson, who said it faithfully represented their goals.

But it was attacked by those on both ends of the political spectrum, leaving the two chief sponsors to defend themselves. Mr. LaTourette listed a series of attacks he said were untrue, adding after each: “False. Your pants are on fire.”

Rep. Charlie Bass, New Hampshire Republican, said he also supports House Republicans’ budget but said that plan doesn’t have a chance in the Senate, and without a final agreement on a congressional budget it will make it impossible to agree to spending limits and extending the Bush-era tax cuts.

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