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Tuesday, July 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Debt Commission’s Plan|Sinks With Majority Vote

WASHINGTON (CN) - President Obama's debt commission failed to secure the 14 votes needed on Friday to move a drastic deficit-reduction proposal through Congress.

Eleven of the 18 bipartisan members voted to approve the plan, three short of the supermajority needed to force the proposal to a vote in the House and Senate.

Commissioners say the majority vote proves that the measure has a high level of support.

"We got 60 percent of the commissioners to vote for something extremely controversial," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., told reporters outside the commission meeting. "Sixty percent in the Senate would prevail. That's a good sign."

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said the proposal should not be shelved.

"[The vote] does not mean we will not have the ability to move forward aggressively in the consideration of this plan," Crapo said at the commission hearing.

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson co-chaired the panel, which released its report on released Wednesday.

The plan contends that the government was on an "unsustainable fiscal path," and lays out measures to cut the deficit in half, or by $828 billion, by 2015 and cut the national debt by $4 trillion by 2020.

It also calls for placing a cap on discretionary spending and ending earmarks, which cost the government $1.1 trillion per year.

Conrad said the "debt threat" was the country's greatest challenge after terrorism.

He praised the plan for making Social Security solvent for 75 years, providing additional benefits to seniors above age 82 and allowing those who perform hard physical labor to retire earlier.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., who voted against the plan, said she supports reducing the debt but wants to achieve that goal without harming the middle class, which she says has been hit especially hard in the past decade.

"What we don't want in a deficit-reduction plan is to take another slap at the middle class," Schakowsky said at the commission meeting. "We talk about shared sacrifice, but there has not been shared prosperity."

Schakowsky said she especially disagreed with the plan's call to freeze non-combat military pay, saying military families "should not be the target of deficit reduction."

Commissioners said the issue would move forward.

"The question is not 'if,' it is a question of when we are going to get this done," Commissioner Andy Stern said.

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