Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

It's Baaaaaaaaaaack: Simpson-Bowles Is Reappearing

It's an interesting time in the fiscal policy world right now. A lot of uncertainty is up in the air about what will happen with our deficits and debt. Last week, a lot of bad news came in. CBO showed a deteorioration in our ten-year outlook, while the IMF and Moody's prodded/warned the U.S. to get going on fiscal reform. But it's not all bad.

There seems to be an increased willingness to negotiate a comprehensive fiscal package along the lines of the Simpson-Bowles plan. Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) have been active proponents for a while now (and former commissioners who supported the commission plan), but they have especially stepped up their vocalness in the new Congress. But now more lawmakers seem to be jumping on the bandwagon for bipartisan negotiations, not just the discretionary spending cuts we've been hearing about for the past few weeks.

Sens. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) have put together a bipartisan group of senators looking to enact a similar proposal to Simpson-Bowles, or at least use the plan as a starting point. Right now, they are looking to make the plan into real legislation. As Chambliss said:

"We've got to have a comprehensive package," Chambliss told POLITICO. "There is no silver bullet. Fixing Social Security will not do it. Raising taxes won’t do it. Spending cuts won’t do it. You have to have all of the above. It’s going to take every leg of the stool being on the table for debate.”

The Simpson-Bowles plan got the support of 11 of 18 commissioners and the attention of many more people. But with the passage of time and a new Congress, attention shifted away from the plan. Now that appears to be changing. Even Commission Co-Chair Alan Simpson sees it: "The wonderful thing that is clear is there is movement." 

Another encouraging sign was a bipartisan group of about forty Senators who attended the Senate Budget Committee hearing yesterday. Clearly, deficits and debt, not just cutting spending, are on the minds of many in Congress.

It apparently has not been hard for Senators to jump on board the bipartisan bandwagon. But of course, this might have something to do with the fact that every piece of legislation that passes the Senate will need the support of both parties. It will be more difficult--and more crucial--to get both the House and the White House on board.

Let's see if this effort gains momentum.