On Jan. 18, the House Budget Committee voted to advance a proposal by U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) along with a controversial plan to establish a bipartisan fiscal commission to address the nation’s debt and deficit woes (Image courtesy of Facebook).
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House Budget Committee voted on Jan. 18 to advance a proposal by U.S. Rep. Blake Moore (R-UT) to enhance public awareness of the national debt and deficit crisis.
But the big news out of the congressional panel that day was its decision to create a bipartisan fiscal commission to come up with a solution to the government’s worsening budget outlook and propose it to Congress for expedited action.
Moore’s proposal – dubbed the Fiscal State of the Nation Act – would require the comptroller general of the United States to come before Congress annually to deliver a nonpartisan, objective analysis of the nation’s financial situation.
The Utah congressman calls that proposed legislation “ … a common sense bill that will bring much needed transparency and accountability to how Congress approaches our debt and deficit crisis.”
The members of the Budget Committee apparently agreed with that view, adding Moore’s proposal to their bill markup issued on Jan. 18 by a voice vote.
There was no such unanimity on the vote regarding the fiscal commission, however.
Most Democrats on the Budget Committee opposed that plan, but three of them joined Republicans to approve the fiscal commission bill by a vote of 22-to-12.
Rep. Scott Peters – a Democrat from California who co-wrote the proposal with Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MN) – argued that a fiscal commission was the only way to restore regular order to Congress’s budget process.
“Regular order is the congressional (equivalent of) ‘Bigfoot’,” Peters quipped. “We’re all told that it exists, but none of us have ever seen it.”
The bill would create a 16-member fiscal commission with membership evenly divided between House and Senate members as well as Republicans and Democrats. The panel will also include four non-voting members of the public.
The commission would be charged with writing a report and legislation to improve the long-term fiscal condition of the government.
The objective of that report would be to reduce deficits and debt; achieve a sustainable ratio of debt to gross domestic product by fiscal 2039; and improve the solvency of federal trust funds, including those that finance Social Security and Medicare.
Most Democrats in Congress oppose the fiscal commission idea because they see it as a first step toward cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits.
The growth of the national debt – now totaling $34 trillion — has been a continuing source of tension on Capitol Hill and a major factor in the polarization of America, according to the inside the Beltway website Roll Call.
Congress narrowly avoided a default in the fall of 2023 through compromise legislation that neither Republicans nor Democrats liked very much.
On Jan. 14, House and Senate leaders announced another short-term spending deal that will keep the doors of government open through March, with a spending ceiling of $1.66 trillion for fiscal year 2024.
But Democrats aren’t entirely alone in opposing the fiscal commission idea.
The ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, Rep. Brendan F. Boyle (R-PA), has long argued that no commission is needed because at the end of the day lawmakers must make a decision to raise revenue, cut spending or a combination of both.
But Democrats Jimmy Panetta of California and Earl Blumenauer of Oregon voted for the bill along with Peters.
“We’ve lost the political will to rein in our growing deficits and spiraling debt,” Panetta said.
Despite the controversy, Moore said he was pleased to have his Fiscal State of the Nation proposal included in the budget markup of Jan 18.
“I am thrilled that my legislation was included in this package of bills that aim to address our federal budget process,” Moore explained.
“I look forward to pushing it through the finish line as we work toward restoring fiscal responsibility in Washington.”