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No Democratic Members have endorsed the bills, and they are unlikely to do so, according to Michael Ettlinger, vice president for economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. Ettlinger said the plan's 18 percent cap on spending is "just not a good idea."

"There's just no way you can do it without seriously handicapping programs that are unequivocally needed," he said.

The last time spending was that low was 1966, according to the Office of Management and Budget. President Bill Clinton came close to reducing spending to 18 percent of GDP in 1999, but the healthier economy at the time meant that the government generated more in tax dollars and spent less on anti-poverty programs than it does now.

Still, the 18 percent spending cap, which would match the government's projected tax revenue, isn't that different from other conservative proposals. The Heritage Foundation has proposed spending be reduced to 18.5 percent of the economy within the next decade.

"Going back to 18 percent is really hard. My personal view is that's something that is absolutely necessary," said Alison Fraser, director of the foundation's Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.

Fraser disagreed with one aspect of Cook's plan and the bill Mack introduced. She said Congress must have the flexibility to ignore the cap when the country faces a severe financial crisis or goes to war, as it has in recent years.

The Mack bill requires a two-thirds majority to waive the spending cap. Otherwise, if Congress fails to agree on what to cut, it would automatically enact cuts across the board.

Defending that idea at a press conference about the bill, Mack said, "Enough is enough when it comes to Washington's appetite for spending."

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