A group of conservative lawmakers, operating under the radar, is about to hatch yet another scheme and this one would kill a lot more than just health care reform, progressives are warning.
With Medicare, Social Security and jobs programs as their target and under cover of a "deficit commission," Sens. Kent Conrad, D-ND, and Judd Greg, R-NH, are trying to put in place a system that would allow a select group of lawmakers to bypass the normal legislative process by preventing debate on bills that the group says add to the federal deficit.
Leaders of some 50 organizations declared their opposition to the idea at a news conference Thursday sponsored by the Campaign for America's Future.
They warned that the move to kill the normal democratic process for generating a bill will come up any day now in the Senate, where the Conrad-Judd proposal is part of a bill to raise the debt ceiling. That ceiling will have to be raised if the federal government is to avoid shutting down for lack of funds.
The scheme would forbid any amendments to the new commission's rulings on particular bills from being proposed in either house of Congress.
Adding to the danger, the progressive leaders warned, is the fact that a minority of pro-austerity, anti-Social Security, anti-Medicare senators is planning to make matters worse by forcing the entire U.S. government into default unless the Senate agrees to a version of the commission proposal that is to their liking.
Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, warned at the press conference that the "deficit commission" would "undemocratically subvert the normal legislative process and recklessly target Social Security and Medicare."
Speakers at the press conference backed the approach to deficit reduction laid out last month by the AFL-CIO at a jobs creation forum - that the best way to bring down the deficit long term is to spend the money now that is needed for a massive jobs creation program which, in turn, will generate both income for workers and taxes for government coffers.
Pro-labor Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has also described deficit spending as a necessary tool to lay the groundwork for smaller deficits in the long term.
Joan Entmacher of the National Women's Law Center said that responsible ways to cut the deficit are available now, without having to wait for a commission, "if the right-wingers weren't only interested in slashing Social Security, Medicare and jobs programs."
"Health care reform has been established by the Congressional Budget Office to provide significant budget deficit reduction and targeting the financial industry by forcing hedge fund managers to pay regular income taxes is another example," she said.
Predicting that conservative Democrats will cite the Brown victory in Massachusetts as a reason to back formation of the commission, Gerald Shea, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO, said, "Deep cuts are wrong-headed in this present atmosphere when voters are demanding action to solve the jobs crisis."
Hillary Shelton of the NAACP said responsibility for deficit reduction should remain with the democratically elected officials from all over the country and not handed to an elite group of lawmakers.
Photo: Of the $9 trillion in deficits projected over the coming decade, nearly $5 trillion comes as a result of failing to pay in the past for just two policies — the Bush tax cuts and the creation of the industry-written Rx drug benefit. $3.5 trillion is a result of lost revenues and mandatory aid for Americans as a result of the Bush economic collapse. As a result, 90% of the projected $9 trillion in deficits is due to Bush policies and the Bush economic collapse, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi notes. (Source: OMB) http://www.flickr.com/photos/speakerpelosi/ / CC BY 2.0