Categorized | Featured Stories, Legislative

Udall Tackles Government Spending

By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
U.S. Sen. Mark Udall is tackling a topic not always broached by Democrats — limiting the government’s credit card.
The senator has joined a bipartisan group of 27 senators in co-sponsoring legislation that would form a commission to make tough decisions concerning the budget that they do not believe Congress can make on its own.
The goal is to bring down the national debt, which has climbed to $12 trillion.
The commission would weigh such issues as tax increases and spending cuts, including possibly trimming retirement spending.
“Anyone who has owned a business or managed a household understands that you cannot continue to spend significantly more money than you take in,” Udall said during a conference call with reporters Wednesday. “This is true for companies and countries.”
The 18-member commission would be modeled after the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission, or BRAC, which was a House committee that made tough decisions on closing military bases. It would consist of eight Democrats and eight Republicans, plus the treasury secretary and another member of the Obama administration.
The commission would report its findings after the November 2010 congressional elections, when lawmakers would presumably feel less short-term political pressure. Both Houses of Congress would have to vote on whether to approve the proposals, but would not be permitted to amend them in any way.
The commission’s recommendations would need a 60-percent supermajority in each chamber to become law.
Udall says he will not vote for imminent legislation to raise the $12.1 trillion debt limit by $1.5 trillion to cover the government’s borrowing needs through 2010 unless the commission is created or “concrete” steps are taken to reign in deficit spending.
But Udall — who has been a staunch supporter of a military surge in Afghanistan — could run into trouble with his promise if the debt-limit increase is combined with bills that would fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He would be forced to decide between funding the war effort, or staying true to his promise concerning the deficit.
The senator made it crystal clear Wednesday that he would not raise the debt ceiling without the commission in place.
“I don’t intend to vote for any long-term debt increase without a concrete path to address our deficits and our long-term debts,” he said.
Meanwhile, the senator said he supports a “delicate balance” between additional stimulus spending and keeping the deficit under control. The Obama Administration is considering another $50 billion for infrastructure projects, including roads and bridges. The money would come on top of money already earmarked for infrastructure projects through Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package, signed last February in Denver.
Udall explained support for stimulus spending as a necessary means to get the economy back on track.
“The economy has to be our No. 1 focus — putting Americans back to work is my No. 1 focus,” he said. “There is a delicate balance here between providing the stimulus that only the federal government can provide to get our economy back on its feet and dealing with long-term deficits.”
Udall argued that the commission would have a year to make recommendations specifically on topics like government stimulus spending.
“Right now I think we need to air on the side of ensuring that our economy has the support it needs,” said Udall. “But this is a part of the overall question that would be asked and answered on the part of the commission.”

Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters

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