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Some Senior Lawmakers Show Flexibility in Budget Negotiations

Aug. 16, 2012 - 09:26AM   |  
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With Congress in recess until September, few believe lawmakers will agree on a comprehensive deal to lower the U.S. deficit before November’s elections.

Still, some believe statements made over the past month by senior minority members in both chambers of Congress could provide the framework for negotiations on a comprehensive debt deal after the election.

Until then, sequestration — $1.2 trillion in federal spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — will loom. The Pentagon’s share of those cuts is about $500 billion over the next decade. The cuts are scheduled to start on Jan. 2.

Some of the ideas being floated by the minority parties— Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the House — are items typically not up for debate among their respective parties, such as revenues and entitlements.

Take, for instance comments made recently Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. and Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., members of the Senate and House Armed Services committees, respectively.

Graham said he was working with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., to find a way to delay defense cuts until May, using components of the Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan.

The plan “rejects raising tax rates, But what we would do is we would go into the tax code and generate revenue, taking whaling deductions away from whaling captains, suspend the corporate jet deduction for a time so we can buy fighter jets,” he said during an Aug. 5 interview in CNN’s State of the Union.

The four-month delay would give lawmakers more time to find ways to lower the deficit.

Andrews — a 12-term congressman — has suggested delaying Medicare and Social Security eligibility.

“I know that there are sacred things you can’t say in American politics,” he said during an Aug. 1 House Armed Services Committee hearing. “We need to start to say them.”

At the same time, Andrews has called for defense cuts below sequestration levels through “statutory caps on defense appropriations.”

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