Blue Dogs push for debt panel to 'Go Big'

Sep 14, 2011
In The News
By Russell Berman

Add the centrist Blue Dog Democrat coalition to the list of groups pushing the deficit reduction “supercommittee” to expand its ambitions and find much more than $1.5 trillion in budget savings.

The Blue Dog leadership released a letter to the 12-member panel on Wednesday asking them to endorse a plan that would reduce the deficit by at least $4 trillion over the next decade.

“Our message to the supercommittee is if you just do what you’ve been legislated to do, it’s not going to [pass] muster. It’s not going to be nearly enough. You have to go big,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), the chairman of the group’s fiscal task force, said at a press conference. “They’ve got to go bigger than anything that’s expected of them.”

Under the debt limit bill signed in August, the deficit panel’s goal is to recommend $1.5 trillion in budget savings to the full Congress by Thanksgiving. But a number of lawmakers and outside groups in recent days have pushed the committee to go further and seek the kind of “grand bargain” that President Obama and the fiscal commission he appointed in 2010 had advocated. Those pushing the committee to “go big” include the chairmen of that presidential panel, Erskine Bowles (D) and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).

The Blue Dogs touted the $4 trillion deficit reduction blueprint they unveiled in March, and they said the committee should look to reform entitlements and the tax code, which many analysts say are necessary to achieve far-reaching budget cuts.

Yet the conservative Democrats acknowledged they have limited optimism for the supercommittee, which is comprised mainly of lawmakers representing the bases of the Republican and Democratic parties. The co-chairmen of the panel are Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a former leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who heads the Senate Democratic campaign arm.

No Blue Dogs were appointed.

“If the Blue Dogs were the 12, we would have a solution,” Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) said. “The economy would be strong. It would be vibrant. The stability would be there. The economy would be rebounding.”

“We wish that we were on that committee. At least one of us,” Shuler added.

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said: “Our concern, and the reason for our letter, is because of the political make-up of the folks on the committee, we’re concerned that they’re going to take their orders from their national party leaders and not those who want them to call a timeout on the 2012 elections like we’re asking them to do.”