COOPER, WOLF INTRODUCE BILLS REQUIRING CONGRESS TO TACKLE LONG-TERM FISCAL CRISIS
Congressmen Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced legislation requiring Congress to address the nation's looming fiscal crisis before spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid bankrupts the federal government. The SAFE Commission Act of 2007, H.R. 3654, would require Congress to vote up-or-down on a plan to overhaul spending and revenue, as drafted by a 16-member, bipartisan commission made up of members and outside appointees of the legislative and executive branches.
"It's a shame that we have to set up a BRAC-style commission to force Congress to do its job, but we can't afford to keep our heads in the sand any longer," said Cooper, a member of the House Budget Committee. "Every day that we do nothing means bigger tax hikes and more draconian benefit cuts in the future. There's no excuse for us to push this burden onto our children when we have all the tools to confront it now. So we'll force the issue-before a $50 trillion shortfall destroys our credit rating, doubles tax rates or leaves our grandchildren without a social safety net. This is a moral imperative for our generation."
"We owe it to our children and grandchildren to start the process today," said Wolf, creator of the Iraq Study Group. "We cannot continue to avoid our responsibility to future generations of Americans by passing on a broken system in the form of unfunded Social Security and Medicare and obligations and unsustainable spending. We cannot continue to keep borrowing and mortgaging our future to countries like China and Saudi Arabia that carry obscene amounts of our debt."
As a growing chorus of outside experts has recognized, America's long-term fiscal situation is dire. The Treasury Department this week reported a $13.6 trillion future shortfall in Social Security funds, and GAO reports a $50 trillion shortfall for all social insurance programs, including Medicare. Meanwhile, Congress is poised to raise the debt ceiling beyond $9 trillion as the value of the U.S. dollar hit 15-year lows-spurred on by America's crushing debt burden. Little wonder Standard & Poor's projects that the U.S. will lose its AAA bond rating by 2012 and issue the equivalent of junk debt by 2025. Little wonder, too, that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson this week released a white paper on Social Security declaring that if the program isn't shored up soon, there will be a "significant cost" to future generations.
The Securing America's Future Economy (SAFE) Commission Act of 2007 would create a balanced, 16-member panel comprised of the White House OMB Director and Treasury Secretary; four members appointed by the Senate Majority Leader and four appointed by the Speaker of the House; three appointed by the House Minority Leader and three appointed by the Senate Minority Leader. No more than four Members of Congress could sit on the commission. It would be tasked with holding town hall meetings around the country and then submitting a report that balances long-term spending and revenue scenarios for the nation. If Congressional leaders fail to introduce their own proposal, the SAFE Commission's legislative proposal is automatically brought to the House floor. If passed, it is sent to the Senate for similarly expedited consideration.
"The one thing President Bush and Congress thus far agree on is that Americans shouldn't have an honest discussion about the country's long-term fiscal outlook," said Cooper. "That may make political sense today, but it will cripple our economy in the not-too-distant future. The SAFE Commission takes the politics out of long-term tax and spending questions and puts them in the hands of a capable bipartisan commission."
The SAFE Commission Act was introduced by Wolf in January with a Senate counterpart introduced by Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH). Cooper and Wolf, meanwhile, are also introducing companion legislation (H.R. 3655) to a bill introduced last week by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-NH). "We are open to our colleagues' ideas about how to solve our long-term economic problems," said Wolf. "What's important is that we begin right away. Our children and grandchildren cannot afford it if we wait."