Consent Preferences


US 34 Trillion in Debt…

Congress Thinks a Commission could help… How?

A House committee approved a plan on January 18th that would establish a bipartisan panel to address the nation’s spiraling debt and provide policy recommendations to Congress.

The chairman of the House Budget Committee stated that “everything’s on the table” in terms of potential measures to slow the federal government’s growing debt, which is currently over $34 trillion. House Republicans are prioritizing the bill. The commission is perceived by many Democrats as an attempt to impose Social Security and Medicare cutbacks.

The commission would be asked to recommend measures to improve the long-term sustainability of Medicare, Social Security, and other programs funded by trust funds, as well as ways to balance the budget as soon as possible. The bill was adopted by the GOP-majority committee by a vote of 22 to 12. There would be 16 members of the commission: four outside specialists who would not be able to vote and 12 members of Congress, evenly split by party.

A similar bill has been sponsored in the Senate by Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah).

While such commissions have been successful in the past, partisan differences have largely prevented recent ones from succeeding. Republicans point the finger at annual deficits caused by federal spending, while many Democrats point to tax cuts implemented during Republican administrations. During Thursday’s debate, that division was evident once more, casting doubt on the possibility that a new commission could move forward.

The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jodey Arrington, stated that both parties have failed to manage their finances responsibly. He claimed that the annual battles to approve spending bills demonstrate a flawed system that makes it difficult to deal with the nation’s financial difficulties.

Texas Republican Arrington declared, “We all own this.” We are all on the same boat. The vessel is taking on water.

The leading Democrat on the committee, Rep. Brendan Boyle of Pennsylvania, expressed his concern that some legislators intend to use the commission “as a backdoor way to force through unpopular cuts.” He emphasized that in order to keep Social Security and Medicare on solid financial ground for many years to come, Congress must have the guts to raise the monies flowing into these programs.

“To do that, we don’t need a commission,” he declared. U.S. Capitol Police took a demonstrator away at the start of the hearing while they chanted, “No cuts to Social Security, no cuts to Social Security.” In a letter sent last week, around 116 House Democrats expressed their opposition to the plan and described it as “a direct circumvention of the process to expedite cuts to Social Security” to Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Johnson referred to the committee’s vote as “a positive step towards fiscal sanity” and complimented it. Prior to the vote, Jeffries declared that he would assess the plan once it emerged from committee and that he was in favor of the several Democratic modifications that were scheduled to be included in the bill. Ultimately, the Democratic amendments were turned down.

“My expectation is that there will be a lukewarm response when it hits the floor if it’s unclear that Social Security and Medicare are protected,” stated Jeffries.

There are Democrats who are in favor of the debt commission’s formation. Three Democrats on the committee supported it, including Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., who co-sponsored the legislation with Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich. According to Peters, Social Security benefit reductions are already accounted for in the statute as it stands, and beneficiaries will have their payments reduced by roughly 24% when the program uses up all of its reserves in less than ten years.

“You’re going to get cut, rich or poor, 72 or 92 years old,” Peters declared. We may now act as though there is no need to act and the issue will be resolved. We can act as though maintaining regular order will take care of things. I decide to present an alternative course.

He stated that although he wants to keep the program in place and not reduce benefits, “the more leverage we give to the people who want to cut benefits the longer Congress waits to tackle the problem.”

Rep. Becca Balint, D-Vermont, expressed her concern over Arrington’s statement that “everything is on the table” for the commission. Because of the outrageous income disparity in this nation, she stated, “there are some things that should absolutely not be on the table.”

It would be mandatory for the panel to conduct a minimum of six hearings throughout the nation. According to Arrington, a complete report and recommendations would be required by May 2025. If the proposals are approved by the majority of the commission—that is, by at least two members from each party—they will be put to an expedited vote in Congress.

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