Capitol Hill may have given up on a sweeping deficit reduction plan, at least for the moment, but K Street is still pushing for it.
Even as the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction conceded defeat, a half-dozen former Members of Congress are advocating for ambitious tax and entitlement changes to reduce the deficit.
The Coalition for a Fiscally Sound America, headed by a group of ex-lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who now lead some of K Street's most influential firms and trade groups, aims to educate voters about the budget crisis. Coalition members want Congress to enact a deficit reduction package that includes a "pro-growth" tax overhaul with entitlement reform — precisely the combination that's managed to elude the super committee.
"The need for a coalition like this is even greater than before," said ex-Rep. Dave McCurdy (D-Okla.), president and CEO of the American Gas Association and a co-chairman of the new coalition. "Because this is going to be a long-term effort, there is a need to not only continue to educate but to provide support for those willing to take on the tough choices and make tough decisions."
As a 501(c)(4) social welfare group, the coalition is more free to engage in advocacy than some like-minded allies, including the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, that have been pushing the super committee to "go big" and find even more than the original target of $1.2 trillion in federal savings over a decade.
The coalition's co-chairmen were among 43 former Members of Congress who wrote an eleventh-hour letter to super committee members and House and Senate leaders Monday to reiterate that plea.
The coalition's other co-chairmen are former Reps. Steve Bartlett (R-Texas), now president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable; Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.), managing director and senior client relationship manager at Morgan Stanley; Steve Largent (R-Okla.), president and CEO of CTIA; Charlie Stenholm (D-Texas), a senior adviser at Olsson, Frank and Weeda; and Tom Tauke (R-Iowa), executive vice president of Verizon Communications.
"We want to reach out beyond just the business community and business organizations," McCurdy said. "We want to form a coalition of people who are a bit more strategically focused and understand the impact of not reaching an agreement and that compromise is going to be part of a long-term solution."
Far from "going big," the super committee failed to issue any recommendations at all in time for its deadline this week, despite months of negotiations.
"This is incredibly disappointing to see the failure to move forward here," McCurdy said. Of course, it's easier to take aim at taxes and entitlements once you've left Capitol Hill.