Blue Dogs outline budget benchmarks, urge bipartisan cooperation

Mar 30, 2011
In The News
By Vicki Needham

With a budget battle raging in Congress, the Blue Dog Coalition laid out its benchmarks on Wednesday to cut $4 trillion from the deficit in 10 years while urging lawmakers to work together on a long-term plan.

The fiscally conservative Blue Dogs are suggesting lawmakers consider cuts to all parts of the federal government's budget, including defense, that could lead to the largest deficit cuts in history by 2014.

“We are spending all of our time in the House in a debate over 15 percent of the federal budget when the truth is we could eliminate every single non-defense federal program and still run huge annual deficits,” said Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), co-chairman of the Blue Dogs.

The Blue Dogs outlined their benchmarks that includes maintaining a debt ratio of 60 percent of gross domestic product by 2024, return to fiscal 2008 spending levels by 2013, reduce the deficit to 2.3 percent of GDP in four years, while reducing the size of government.

"This framework is about putting everything on the table and bringing both parties together for a frank conversation about how we forge a fiscally responsible and sustainable path forward," said Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), chairman of the Blue Dog Task Force on Fiscal Responsibility.

The plan also calls for using a two-thirds spending cuts and one-third tax reform to lower the deficit, which is expected to reach an estimated $1.6 trillion this year. The outline also suggests entitlement and other budget policy reforms.

“Targeted cuts in spending are an important part of the solution, but we are kidding ourselves, and the American people, if we think cutting a few hundred billion dollars is going to eliminate our deficit and solve our long-term debt crisis," Ross said. 

Blue Dogs "are inviting everyone to the table" for budget talks at a time when House Republicans are struggling to reach consensus within their own party on a budget compromise as many freshmen members push for larger budget cuts than could pass through the Senate.

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who is expected to unveil his fiscal 2012 budget plan within the next several weeks, said he is talking to "conscientious Blue Dog Democrats, who I think see it our way."

"The question is, is whether or not they're willing to break party ranks or not, and I don't know the answer to that," Ryan told Fox News's Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday.

Lawmakers are trying to reach an agreement on the amount of cuts to the current year's budget to avoid a government shutdown before the current funding bill expires April 8.

On the table is more than $30 billion in cuts and that Senate Democrats have said they'd accept as long as Republican-proposed riders such as cutting EPA regulations and eliminating federal funding for Planned Parenthood aren't included in the package.

Meanwhile, House Republicans are pushing the Senate to produce their own budget plan while facing opposition from their own conservative members, including freshmen who want at least the $61 billion in cuts included in the House-passed bill.

The Blue Dog proposal resembles suggestions put forth by President Obama’s fiscal commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, who announced support for the outline and said  that while "no plan is perfect, but any plan that follows the guidelines put forward by the Blue Dogs will significantly improve our nation's fiscal future, in the near-, medium-, and long-term."

"We are so very encouraged to see the Blue Dogs get out in front of this issue by putting forward a very serious set of principles on how to attack this debt and deficit problem, and indicating their willingness to reach out to both sides of the aisle to start having a really honest conversation about the long term fiscal health of the country," Erskine and Bowles said in a statement.

"The Blue Dogs have a long history of building coalitions across party lines, and being at the center of significant bipartisan reforms — and thus again with their leadership on this issue, the prospects for reform surely became a great deal brighter."