Senators form panel for federal deficit

Dec. 10, 2009 at 3:26 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 (UPI) -- A bipartisan group of U.S. senators Thursday announced a plan to form an 18-member panel to recommend ways to reduce the federal deficit.

"It is designed to address the unsustainable long-term fiscal imbalances with everything on the table," Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said during a media availability.

"After the potential for attack on this nation by terrorists or weapons of mass destruction the biggest threat that faces our country today is our fiscal situation at the federal level," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., said. "We are on a path to bankruptcy as a nation and it's that simple."

The panel would have eight Republicans, eight Democrats and two representatives from the administration, including the Treasury secretary, Conrad said.

"All task force members must be currently serving in Congress or the administration so that they are accountable to the American people," the Democrat said.

Fourteen members must agree to any proposals the committee passes. The report that would come before Congress would be accepted on an up-or-down vote, without amendments or the threat of a filibuster, he said.

The final report in bill form would be acted on after the 2010 election and the final vote taken before the 111th Congress adjourns, Conrad said. Passage would require a "supermajority" -- 60 votes in the Senate and a 60 percent of the vote in the House.

"Senator Conrad and I felt very strongly that we needed to take an extraordinary step," Gregg said. "It's been clear that regular order has been unable to address this ... . "

Gregg said lawmakers had two options -- inflate the currency or "radically" increase the tax burden.

"Those options are not acceptable," Gregg said, "but they're the course that we're on."

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