Through the recent tax bill vote and through reactions to the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction plan, we are able to begin sorting the “Deficit Hawks” from the “Deficit Albatrosses” in Congress. We’ll start today with the Senate deficit hawks.
December’s compromise tax bill raises deficits on both ends — decreased tax rates and increased spending. Only 19 Senators and 148 Representatives voted against this Deeper Deficit Bill, as it might be called. Also in December, the Simpson-Bowles Debt Panel released its final recommendations — many spending cuts with some tax increases. While Congress as a whole has not been forced to vote on Simpson-Bowles, a number of Congressmen and -women have availed themselves of the opportunity to support it or to denounce it.
The good news is that at least 25 Senators out of 100 have now taken tough stands for cutting the deficit (not counting those leaving office next week, and not counting a couple of maybe’s). The bad news is that 75 Senators have not. More bad news is that only three Senators both voted against the Deeper Deficit Bill AND publicly support Simpson-Bowles as a basis for cutting the deficit. (Other realistic balanced-budget plans would be fine, but in my view, no one in Congress has one that is realistic, because either they underestimate entitlement growth, or they propose top Federal income tax rates well north of 50 percent, or both.) Those three outstanding Senators are Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
More good news is if Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) are successful in their joint effort to pass a long-term budget plan in 2011, many more Senators might be drawn into their camp, which is citing Simpson-Bowles as its basis. So far, Chambliss, Warner, and sixteen other Senators have pledged to try to draw up a plan, in addition to three more Senators who sat on the Simpson-Bowles Panel and voted in favor of the chairmen’s proposals.
Below is a list of these 25 promising Senators, with notes on (a) who voted No on the tax cut compromise (“No Deeper Deficit Bill”), (b) who voted for the Simpson-Bowles Panel on their panel (“S-B”), and (c) who has signed up with Warner and Chambliss on the basis of Simpson-Bowles (“W-Ch”). Below those are notes on two Senators I’m not sure about, and a few “No” votes who seem too far either to the right or to the left to vote in favor of any realistic balanced budget plan down the road. In many cases of No votes, links are provided for elaboration of the respective Senator’s explanations.
Here is the roll call Senate vote on the recent Tax Compromise / Deeper Deficit Bill. Here is the 11-7 Simpson-Bowles internal panel vote. And here are the 16 Senators plus Warner and Chambliss pledging to push deficit reduction in 2011.
1. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), W-Ch
2. Mark Begich (D-Alaska). W-Ch
3. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), W-Ch
4. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), 2012, No Deeper Deficit Bill, explanation
5. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), W-Ch
6. Tom Coburn (R-OK), No Deeper Deficit Bill, S-B, explanation
7. Kent Conrad, (D-N.D.), S-B
8. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), W-Ch
9. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), S-B, W-Ch
10. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), S-B
11. John Ensign (R-NV), No Deeper Deficit Bill, explanation
12. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), W-Ch
13. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), No Deeper Deficit Bill, W-Ch
14. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), W-Ch
15. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), W-Ch
16. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), No Deeper Deficit Bill, explanation
17. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), W-Ch
18. Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), W-Ch
19. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), W-Ch
20. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), W-Ch
21. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), W-Ch
22. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), No Deeper Deficit Bill, W-Ch
23. Tom Udall (D-NM), No Deeper Deficit Bill, explanation
24. Mark Warner, W-Ch
25. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), No Deeper Deficit Bill, W-Ch
Two opponents of the Deeper Deficits Bill who might support something like Simpson-Bowles:
Bernie Sanders (I-VT), explanation
Jeff Sessions (R-AL), unknown
Six opponents of the Deeper Deficits Bill who might prove to be Deficit Albatrosses, either because they refuse enough spending cuts, or alternatively any tax increases, in cases of Democrats and Republicans, respectively:
Jim DeMint (R-SC), adamant about tax cuts
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), not much about cutting spending
Tom Harkin (D-IA), explanation
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), explanation
Carl Levin (D-MI), explanation
Jeff Merkley (D-OR), explanation
(Note: I have NOT researched these or the remaining Senators for explicit condemnation of Simpson-Bowles, as some in Congress have issued, for example Nancy Pelosi.)
Three Senate opponents of the Deeper Deficits Bill, and one Simpson-Bowles Panel Senator “yes” vote, are leaving the Senate, with replacements unknown or hostile to realistic balanced budgets.