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Coburn Slams McConnell Plan

Monday, 18 Jul 2011 08:37 AM

 

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Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, who says he will unveil a plan today that would cut $9 trillion from the federal budget over the next 10 years in an effort to curb spending and avoid a default on U.S. debt, says Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s controversial plan doesn’t cut spending enough.

Tom Coburn, Mitch McConnell, Obama“A $2 trillion package will do nothing to reassure the world economic community that we get it,” Coburn said on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday, adding that any deal must include at least $4 trillion of cuts.

McConnell, whose plan would allow President Barack Obama to raise the debt limit, met with Majority Leader Harry Reid during the weekend to negotiate changes to his proposal, with a goal of putting a measure before the Senate as early as Wednesday, said a Senate Democratic aide. The complex proposal would let the president raise the ceiling on borrowing authority by $2.5 trillion by the end of 2012 with support of just over one-third of the members of each chamber.

Although Coburn said he doesn’t expect his own plan to pass Congress, it would offer a wide range of spending cuts and revenue increases that could be used as the basis for bipartisan negotiations on a budget compromise.

“We have $9 trillion worth of savings that are achievable over the next 10 years,” Coburn said. “Pick half of them. Half of them solve our problems.”

With Washington deadlocked on a strategy to cut spending and raise the nation’s borrowing limit before an Aug. 2 deadline, the Oklahoma Republican said he will offer a 10-year plan that cuts defense by $1 trillion, makes changes to Social Security and Medicare, and raises $1 trillion through changes in the tax code, among other things.

Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona, have resisted any talk of tax increases as part of a budget deal.

“We should focus on the real problem, the spike in spending, and not this phony problem of taxes,” Kyl said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

Yet Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he would consider closing tax loopholes “like the ethanol subsidy” to boost revenue as part of a budget deal.

“I would be willing to close loopholes and put some of the money on debt retirement, but I will only do that in the context of a serious plan to balance the budget,” Graham said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Coburn’s push to cut defense by $1 trillion over 10 years is likely to draw opposition. Obama has called for cutting military spending by $400 billion over 12 years, while rejecting an earlier proposal for a $1 trillion cut as excessive.

Coburn said a $1 trillion cut to defense over a decade “is difficult, but it’s not super hard.”

Coburn’s plan also would cut almost $2 trillion in non-defense discretionary spending over 10 years, while raising about $1 trillion in new revenue by cutting or eliminating tax breaks and loopholes by about 10 percent, according to a congressional aide.

Coburn said his plan, if enacted in its entirety, would save $1 trillion in interest payments over the next nine years.

Graham said he also would resist the McConnell-Reid stopgap measure. He said on CNN he “doesn’t have any confidence” that the proposal of the Senate leaders “is going to lead to the solutions that we need.”

McConnell wants the increase in the debt limit to occur in three stages, forcing Democrats to take a series of tough votes before next year’s elections.

Democrats are seeking to reduce the number of debt-limit votes to two, and they are also pushing to include caps on discretionary spending over the next two years, the aide said. Such caps would help forestall repeats of the government shutdown battle that dominated Congress for much of this year for the remainder of Obama’s term.

McConnell and Reid are nearing agreement on a new joint congressional committee on deficit reduction that would be included in the plan, the aide said. The bipartisan panel would have eight or 12 members, and would make recommendations as early as next year on a broad plan to curb record-high deficits. The plan it produces that would be protected from a Senate filibuster and couldn’t be amended, protections similar to those offered a commission that has recommended military base closures, the aide said.

While the two Senate leaders are continuing to discuss a package of $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion in spending cuts that could be attached to the legislation, it is unclear whether the package will be agreed to when the measure is introduced, the aide said.


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