Thune: Much rides on success of ‘Super Congress’Senator urges the 12 members of the committee to set aside partisan politics as they begin their work during Congress’ return to Capitol Hill this week.
By: Denise Ross, The Daily Republic
America’s fiscal future hinges on whether the so-called “Super Congress” can strike a deal to cut the nation’s debt and deficit spending, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told reporters Wednesday.
He urged the 12 members of the committee to set aside partisan politics as they begin their work during Congress’ return to Capitol Hill this week.
“This needs to be an exercise in what’s best for the American people and for our future. I hope partisanship and politics can be put aside. I hope there can be a real focus on the steps that could be taken to secure our fiscal future,” Thune said. “Right now, we’re at a really, really critical time in the history of our nation. If they deadlock, it’s going to be a sad day for the country.”
Officially called the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the “Super Congress” was created as the result of partisan brinksmanship over raising the nation’s debt ceiling that ended dramatically in early August, just as the nation was about to default. The panel is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats and has until Nov. 23 to offer a plan to cut spending by $1.4 trillion over 10 years. Then, the entire Congress has until Dec. 23 to either accept or reject the plan in its entirety.
Thune hopes the end result includes comprehensive tax reform and entitlement reform, something he’s been calling for during the past several months. He said Wednesday that he hopes President Obama includes proposals for tax reform in his speech to Congress today.
“I hope the president embraces the idea of comprehensive, broad-based tax reform. That would be huge in terms of helping the economy grow and expand,” he said.
During Congress’ August recess, Thune said he heard over and over from South Dakotans frustrated with how partisan politics has prevented Congress from dealing with the nation’s debt and deficits.
“I got the same message from my fellow South Dakotans wherever I visited. Many people were expressing their frustrations with Congress. We’ve got to develop a renewed sense of urgency in getting the country’s fiscal house in order,” Thune said.
The “Super Congress” represents the best — and possibly the only — chance to get anything done on that front, Thune said, and there isn’t much time.
“This is the best chance we have at doing something meaningful. If the committee deadlocks, then we get into an election year and everybody starts posturing. Very little of consequence will get accomplished,” he said. “I’m hopeful and optimistic, but I’m realistic enough to know it’s entirely possible they could gridlock.”
Democrats are reluctant to consider reform of Medicare and Medicaid, the federal health programs for senior citizens and the poor, Thune said, and Republicans are reluctant to consider tax increases — even the closing of loopholes. Nonetheless, he hopes the two sides can work together.
Thune repeated his call for Medicare and Medicaid reform, but he hasn’t detailed specific proposals for change. The nation’s tax code, especially as it applies to business, needs to be simpler and fairer, he said. He repeated his call for fewer loopholes, a broader tax base and lower tax rates.
“Our ability to compete in the global marketplace is hindered by our country’s tax policies. The corporate rates drive business to do business outside of our borders,” Thune said. “Our rates are too high, our code is too complicated. The way we tax ... is very anti-competitive.”
If the Super Congress fails, a series of pre-determined cuts split equally between defense and domestic spending will take place.
Thune said he hopes the nation’s leaders can do better than that.
“What we do in terms of the policies we put in place will determine whether we can turn this thing around and get back on the path of economic growth and fiscal discipline or whether we continue toward that cliff we’re headed toward,” Thune said.