News Column

Deficit Hawks Flock to Fiscal Summit

May 14, 2014

Associated Press

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (AP)
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) Washington's outgunned deficits hawks huddled Wednesday for their annual pep rally, but this year's gathering came as lawmakers and the White House have given up any pretense of tackling the country's budget woes in the run-up to November's midterm elections.

The annual "fiscal summit" was held just blocks from the Capitol, where the Senate was debating a measure extending tax breaks for a variety of special interests for another two years at a cost of $85 billion.

This year's summit also occurred as Democrats and Republicans were taking a break from battling over the budget after a tumultuous 2013. Last fall's government shutdown and subsequent small-scale budget deal and increase in the debt limit have combined to take away any pressure for a budget deal this year. It also came as deficits while still large have tumbled sharply from the $1 billion-plus deficits of President Barack Obama's first term.

The gathering attracted top Washington talent like Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The marquee attraction, however, was an out-of-towner: New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, a top prospect for his party's presidential nomination in 2016.

The summit is hosted by Pete Peterson, who has staked $1 billion of his Wall Street fortune on a foundation bearing his name that is dedicated to educating the public on the perils of the deficit. The gatherings tend to chew over the same ground, year after year, as participants lament lost opportunities to wrestle the deficits under control and look ahead to future ones.

The deficit hawk crowd lacks the political firepower of the powerful protecters of Social Security and Medicare, like the AARP, or the clout of anti-tax groups on the other side of the spectrum.

Portman, who recalled his 2011 tenure on the "not so super" committee, said that there may be a six-month window for action next year, especially if Republicans retake the Senate. But he said Obama is not serious about the deficit and has removed a proposal for curbing Social Security cost-of-living increases from his budget.

"We're not headed in the right direction," Portman said.

Clinton meandered on for an hour under questioning by PBS's Gwen Ifill, avoiding much talk of the deficit. Instead, he addressed income inequality, immigration reform, and foreign policy.

Ifill even asked Clinton about GOP strategist Karl Rove's observation that Hillary Clinton may have suffered a brain injury last year.

"First they say she faked her concussion and now say she's auditioning for a part on 'The Walking Dead,' " Clinton replied.

The supercommittee that I was a part of turned out to be not so super,"

outgunned deficits hawks are holding their annual pep rally, but this year's gathering comes as lawmakers and the White House have given up any pretense of tackling the country's budget woes in the run-up to November's midterm elections.

The annual "fiscal summit" was held just blocks from the Capitol, where the Senate was debating a measure extending tax breaks for a variety of special interests for another two years, adding $85 billion to the nation's debt.

This year's summit also is happening as Democrats and Republicans are taking a break from battling over the budget after a tumultuous 2013. Last fall's government shutdown and subsequent small-scale budget deal and increase in the debt limit have combined to take away any pressure for a budget deal this year.

-----

Original headline: Deficit hawks press ahead despite obstacles


For more stories covering politics, please see HispanicBusiness' Politics Channel



Source: Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.