WASHINGTON — Republican Sens. Mike Crapo of Idaho and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who have reputations as budget-slashing conservatives, said Thursday that they'd vote to endorse the bipartisan debt commission’s final report.
That vote by the commission, scheduled for Friday, needs the support of 14 of the panel’s 18 members to prevail. It's likely to get majority support, but perhaps short of the number needed. So far it's thought to have nine "yes" and five "no" votes.
If 14 members approve, the recommendations of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform would go to Congress, which would be expected to start taking them up early next year.
Amassing 14 votes is still thought to be an uphill climb, but the support of panel members Coburn and Crapo could be an important step toward achieving it.
Coburn explained in personal terms why he’ll go along: “We have to start somewhere,” he said. “It can’t all be my way.”
Crapo agreed. “There’s a necessity we move forward, and this plan will get us on the way,” he said.
Among the panel’s members from the House of Representatives, however, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who’s expected to chair the House Budget Committee starting next month, expressed reservations about the report.
He objected to the health care provisions, which he said didn’t go far enough in cutting spending.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., also said Thursday that he'd vote no.
"Reducing our federal deficit is imperative, but we cannot cut the deficit at the expense of veterans, seniors, ranchers, farmers and hardworking families,” he said.
“Instead, we need to look for common-sense ways to help businesses create jobs and grow our economy. These recommendations are wrong for our state, they are wrong for our country, and I simply can’t support them.”
Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., who's slated to become the House Ways and Means Committee chairman next year, said he, too, would vote no, because of concerns that the plan would spur tax increases and didn’t sufficiently address health care spending.
The plan would make dramatic cuts in government spending and overhaul the tax code. It aims to cut about $4 trillion from federal budget deficits — which reached $1.29 trillion in the last fiscal year — by 2020.
Twelve commission members are also members of Congress.
Still uncertain are the votes of Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, who's moving into the House leadership, and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, D-Ill.
Crapo and Coburn hope to give them a push. They issued a joint statement that explained, “Everyone in America should be prepared to sacrifice, beginning with politicians in Washington. Everything has to be on the table.”
The plan is “flawed and incomplete,” they said, but it’s an important first step.
“All of these steps,” they said, “will send a clear signal to investors that America is serious about getting its fiscal house in order.”
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