GOP Co-Chair Hensarling: Supercommittee Panel Must Reform Entitlements or It Will Fail

Sunday, 13 Nov 2011 10:33 AM

By Amy Woods

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The supercommittee will fail in its duty to reduce the deficit unless fundamental structural reforms to entitlement programs are addressed, says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Republican co-chairman of the debt panel.

"The duty is to put forth legislation that actually addresses our long-term structural debt," the Texan said today on CNN’s "State of the Union." "We have entitlement spending programs that are . . . driving the country bankrupt. Unless we deal with that, frankly, we will fail."

The bipartisan committee faces a Nov. 23 deadline to cut $1.2 trillion in 10 years from the federal budget deficit. A recent Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll found that 69 percent of Americans don’t believe politicians will succeed.

"What I’m willing to do is be committed to ensuring that at least America gets that $1.2 trillion of deficit reduction," Hensarling said. "We haven’t given up hope, but if this was easy, the president of the United States and the speaker of the House would have gotten it done themselves."

Republicans on the committee realize that tax increases remain a reality in order in increase revenues, he said. The key is to increase job growth at the same time.

"Whatever damage would be done by $250 billion of new taxes we think would be offset by a system that would help create jobs," he said.

The main drivers of the nation’s debt, by President Barack Obama’s admission, are Medicare, Medicaid, and healthcare, Hensarling said.

"There are no real spending cuts on the table," he said. "All we are talking about here is slowing the rate of growth. All of these programs, by and large, are going to continue to grow but at a pace that would become more sustainable.

"Yes, we will fail unless we fundamentally do structural reform to what President Obama himself has called the main drivers of our debt."

Hensarling described the deliberations as a "roller-coaster ride" and gave no indication that a deal could be struck before the panel's Thanksgiving deadline.

When asked whether entitlements could be done in a matter of days, he said, "We haven't given up hope."

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