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House Members Still Trying to ‘Go Big’

New Coalition Will Focus on Bringing a $4 Trillion Deficit Reduction Plan to House, Senate Floors

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Mike Simpson is a key Republican on the Go Big Coalition, which hopes to craft language in the next few months to reduce the deficit.

A group of more than 150 legislators is taking up Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s challenge to scrap the “happy talk” on deficit reduction and produce a bill this year to cut more than $4 trillion from the deficit.

The Go Big Coalition aims to craft bill language based on the recommendations of the president’s 2010 deficit reduction commission and bring that measure to the floors of the House and Senate by this spring.

Reid said late last year that if the bipartisan “gang of six” Senators working on a deficit reduction plan had a proposal, “put it in bill form, in writing — not all these happy statements on what people think can be done.”

Rep. Mike Simpson, the key House Republican on the Go Big Coalition, said he heard the Nevada Democrat loud and clear.

Harry Reid was right when he was kind of chewing out the gang of six and saying, ‘You know, give me something to look at. Give me a bill,’” the Idaho Republican said. “That’s the first challenge, is trying to get something that you can actually put in bill form.”

During the Congressional winter recess, staffers were tasked with starting to put into legislative language the ideas contained in the presidential commission’s roughly $4 trillion plan, known as Bowles-Simpson for its co-chairmen, Erskine Bowles, once chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.).

Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), Mike Simpson’s Democratic counterpart, said the coalition has agreed on “some of the most important things to overcome,” including the ratio of revenue increases to spending reductions as well as the time frame in which the plan should be carried out.

Shuler declined, however, to reveal the particulars of those decisions until a bill is released. Staff is now hashing out bill specifics, the North Carolinian said, adding, “We’re meeting every day in some capacity with our staff.”

A bipartisan deficit reduction plan is a tall order for a group that knows failure all too well. The coalition was created late last year in an attempt to influence the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to embrace a plan including revenue raisers and budget cuts. The super committee failed to produce a bill by its Thanksgiving 2011 deadline.

Mike Simpson acknowledged that the group faces even more of a challenge absent the super committee’s mandate, which included guaranteed floor consideration of whatever plan it produced.

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