A bipartisan group of senators is considering legislation that would trigger new taxes and budget cuts if Congress fails to meet a set of mandatory spending targets and other fiscal goals aimed at reducing federal deficits.The plan would break the task of deficit reduction into four pieces: a tax code overhaul; discretionary spending cuts; changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements; and changes to Social Security, aides said. The Social Security system is on firmer financial footing than other major entitlement programs and raises political sensitivities that lawmakers want to deal with separately.The proposal builds on the work of President Barack Obama's deficit commission, according to aides working on it."We're getting close," said Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D., Ill.), one of six senators working on the plan. "We understand that if we're going to do something that's important, it has to be timely." He said the group hopes to reach agreement "in a matter of weeks, or months."In addition to Mr. Durbin, the second-ranking Senate Democrat, the group include Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D., N.D.), and one of the Senate's most conservative fiscal hawks, Tom Coburn (R., Okla.). Messrs. Coburn and Durbin are personally close to President Obama.Aides working on the effort said negotiations are delicate and other options might come forward. The framework of targets and penalties is expected to be circulated to a broad group of senators by early next month.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
From Jonathan Weisman of The Wall Street Journal on Feb. 17: