- The Washington Times - Monday, April 26, 2010

NATIONAL DEBT

Debt panel chief: Growth not enough

The United States cannot grow its way out of budget deficits and both revenue increases and spending cuts will be needed to stem the flow of red ink and create a brighter financial outlook, top members of a newly created budget commission said Sunday.

The independent National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform created by President Obama is to hold its first meeting Tuesday. The co-chairmen of the 18-member panel told “Fox News Sunday” that everything had to be on the table as it considers ways to reduce huge deficits and mounting debt.

“We’re not going to say we’re going to grow our way out of this,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson, Wyoming Republican.

The deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2009, nearly 10 percent of the overall economy, and it is expected to be that much again this year. Both liberals and conservatives have expressed concern about the commission. It is due to make its recommendations in December, well after the November midterm congressional elections, where record deficits and the $12 trillion national debt are likely to be major issues.

Liberals are worried the panel will recommend deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare as well as other social programs. Conservatives say the panel is a way to set the stage for raising taxes, including a European-style value-added tax.

SENATE

McConnell urges Crist to stay in GOP

The Senate’s top Republican on Sunday warned Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate, to stay in the Republican primary or risk forfeiting all party support.

“My advice to him would be to compete as a Republican - he’s been a Republican all of his life - and remain within the party,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Mr. McConnell said he would be “troubled” if the governor ran as in independent. “I think that would be a serious problem, and he would certainly not have my support and not have the support of any other Republicans that I know,” he said.

The moderate Mr. Crist, once a skyrocketing star in his party, in recent months has fallen significantly behind conservative Republican Marco Rubio in most polls for the open seat.

Mr. Rubio, 38, a former speaker of the Florida House, has picked up several high-profile GOP endorsements in recent days, including those of former Vice President Dick Cheney and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia.

Mr. Crist, who has suggested that Mr. Rubio’s swelling popularity is why he is considering a bolt from the party, has until Friday to decide whether to remain in the primary.

CABINET

‘60s labor secretary dies at age 98

W. Willard Wirtz, a lawyer and labor arbitrator who was labor secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations but broke publicly with Lyndon Johnson over Vietnam, has died.

Mr. Wirtz, 98, died Saturday of natural causes at his home in Washington, his son Philip said Sunday.

President John F. Kennedy picked Mr. Wirtz for the job in 1962 just one day after naming Labor Secretary Arthur J. Goldberg to the Supreme Court. Mr. Wirtz continued in the post after Johnson succeeded Kennedy in 1963 and stayed on until Johnson completed his term in January 1969. He remained in Washington and resumed the practice of law, often serving on boards and pursuing labor-related projects. His wife, Jane, who died in 2002, was a prominent Washington socialite who was active in political and social organizations.

“Willard Wirtz was the consummate negotiator and played a significant role in preventing and ending major labor strikes during the 1960s,” Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a statement Sunday.

In step with the social and economic goals of Johnson’s Great Society initiatives, Mr. Wirtz’s department directed numerous training and education programs aimed at furthering opportunities for workers, particularly the undereducated and the underemployed.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

Democratic bill aims at justices’ ruling

Democrats in Congress plan to unveil proposals this week to counter a Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts in U.S. elections.

President Obama, who took the unusual step of publicly criticizing the ruling in his State of the Union address in January, has warned it will give special-interest groups and foreigners undue influence in elections.

The bill would require the leaders of groups to put their names on television ads and would ban election spending by government contractors, companies with more than 20 percent foreign ownership, and recipients of taxpayer-funded bailout money.

“It is about restoring the proper balance. Certainly, special interests have a right to be heard. The problem is when special-interest voices drown out the voices of average Americans,” a senior White House official told Reuters.

Democratic aides said they hoped to introduce the measure this week, but acknowledged they face hurdles that could delay it becoming law until after congressional elections in November, when Republicans hope to shrink Democrats’ majorities in the Senate and the House. The bill also would face legal challenges in the courts. The country’s biggest business group, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, signaled Friday it would fight it.

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