Bush's budget plan doesn't quite balance

US Capitol Building

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: A couple of senators have come up with a plan for turning back the tide of debt — a bipartisan commission with some special clout.

Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


NANCY MARSHALL GENZER: Nobody on Capitol Hill has been able to come up with a way to let the air out of ballooning budget deficits.

Former Office of Management and Budget chief Leon Panetta says Congress made things worse by backing new initiatives — such as the Medicare prescription drug program — without paying for them.

strong class="name">LEON PANETTA: We borrowed, not only for the tax cuts, we've borrowed for the war, we've borrowed for prescription drugs. We have got to deal with this issue.

The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee have agreed on the framework for a bill that would create a bi-partisan budget commission. If the legislation is approved, the new panel would be chaired by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and include the heads of congressional finance and budget committees. They'd have the equivalent of congressional superpowers — so-called "fast-track" authority.

Maya MacGuineas, of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, says that means limited debate, no time-consuming amendments and a straight up-or-down vote on the commission's proposals.

strong class="name">MAYA MACGUINEAS: The focus is to get people to say we've come up with a package that is kind of the best of all the solutions, and you have to vote yay or nay.

MacGuineas says the commission's "star power" could help it force Congress to make tough choices, such as . . . raising taxes.

strong class="name">MACGUINEAS: We're going to have to slow the growth in spending on both retirement benefits and health care benefits. And we're going to have to increase the revenues that support these programs. There's no real free lunches here to fixing these programs.

The commission's prospects are uncertain in the House.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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