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Diverse Coalition Urges Deficit Panel to Aim High

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Rep. Mike Simpson and others organized a bipartisan group of lawmakers to urge the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to craft a large deal.

A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers today urged the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction to ignore pressure from their political wings and craft a massive deal to cut the nation’s deficit that includes both changes to entitlements and new taxes.

Although talks have stalled in recent days, dozens of Members gathered in the Capitol to give the panel moral support and urge them to aim their sights high.

The bipartisan group, which organizers said counts more than 150 Members of the House and Senate, “want to work on this and want to make the tough votes” to pass a large package, said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), one of the organizers.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) agreed, saying that “committee members, for the sake of the country ... [should] recommend a package of cuts, revenues and reforms” that would cut trillions of dollars from the deficit over the next decade.

For many members of the coalition, calling for either new revenues or serious changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements runs counter to their own preferences.

For instance, a number of the Senate Republicans in the coalition have also recently signed on to a letter calling for no new taxes. And while that may be their personal preference, the lawmakers nevertheless are “ready to make the compromises and build the solutions” needed for a large bipartisan deal, Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) said.

Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), one of the House’s staunchest progressives, agreed, saying that “the best way” for entitlements to be protected in the long term is an approach “where everything is on the table [so] we can make the tough decisions.”

Hoyer and others also charged that the super committee’s work has significantly broader implications, insisting that the public and the world needs a strong demonstration of bipartisanship.

The public does not “believe we can work across the aisle. We’re here today to say we must work across the aisle in both chambers,” Hoyer said.

Likewise, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) called the fight over the deficit “a proxy of whether our democratic institutions are up to the job in the 21st century.”

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