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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Deficit Plan Details Emerge - Bipartisan Senate Group Mulls Spending Caps That Could Trigger Tax Increases

From The Wall Street Journal:

A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits.

The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. The Social Security system is on firmer financial footing than other major entitlement programs and raises political sensitivities that lawmakers want to deal with separately.

The proposal builds on the work of President Barack Obama's deficit commission, according to aides working on it.

The new budget the president sent to Congress on Monday envisions that spending on all the programs funded annually by Congress, including defense programs, will decline slightly over the next 10 years. Unless current trends are changed, spending on Social Security will rise 71%, spending on Medicare will rise 72% and spending on Medicaid will rise 115% over the same period, with the increases getting bigger after that.

A small group of House members, led by Reps. Frank Wolf (R., Va.), Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.), and Heath Shuler (D., N.C.), have been kept apprised of the effort. House Speaker John A. Boehner's staff has also been briefed, and Mr. Chambliss has kept an open channel to Mr. Boehner, a long-time personal friend.

"If the Senate effort gained momentum, John Boehner wouldn't be upset at all about getting thrown into this briar patch," said Ed Lorenzen, a staff member of the president's deficit commission, now with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Social Security should be removed from any deficit plan, according to an aide briefed on the meeting.

Republican aides said Wednesday that for the Senate effort to win GOP support in the House, President Obama would have to publicly embrace it.

But aides involved in the negotiations said it is not clear how firmly the administration will back the effort. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is encouraging the talks, as is Bruce Reed, Vice President Joe Biden's chief of staff. But the White House has stayed away from any formal role.

Before details of the Senate plan emerged, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie accused both the White House and Republicans in Congress of irresponsibility for failing to propose fixes for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

"What game is being played here is irresponsible and it's dangerous," he told a packed house at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "We are on the path to ruin."

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