Speaking at the Center for American Progress on Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said the ongoing debate over federal spending needs a ‘reset’ and should be broadened to include taxes, entitlements and meaningful, long-term deficit reduction — an “all of the above approach,” as he called it.
“This debate needs a reset,” Schumer said. “We need to stop falling into the trap of measuring fiscal responsibility in terms of willingness to cut government, and instead focus on what matters — reining in the deficit.”
He claimed Republicans were not legitimately concerned with reducing the deficit, and made an implicit dig at GOP freshmen and the Tea Party: “Right now a very small, very intense ideological tail is wagging the dog over in the House of Representatives,” he said. “Their fervor for spending cuts is not grounded in deficit reduction at all. Instead the far right wing has deliberately confused two separate issues. They’ve conflated reducing the deficit — which is not their true priority — with cutting government — which is.”
Schumer said Republicans were swimming in “the shallow end” of the pool by focusing entirely on non-defense discretionary spending and Democrats were inviting them to swim in the “deep end” by going after entitlements and other mandatory spending in the budget. He said the government could find billions in savings by revamping Medicare and Medicaid, but argued that Social Security should be off the table in negotiations.
Raising taxes, however, should be considered in order to pay down the deficit, Schumer said. Specifically, he recommended removing tax credits to oil and gas companies, as well as reducing “ineffective” farm subsidies, and restricting U.S. corporations ability to skirt taxes by shifting assets overseas. He also voiced support for a surtax on millionaires and billionaires, saying “it’s not only a popular thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.”
He praised the so-called ‘Gang of Six’ senators working on a long-term plan based on the recommendations of the president’s deficit commission. “There is great potential for long-term deficit reduction in the Gang of Six negotiation, but make no mistake about it: Its prospects depend greatly on what happens in the next few weeks on this year’s budget,” he said. “We need to learn from the Gang of Six model of tackling all the major drivers of the deficit and apply it to the near-term negotiations on the seven-month CR.”
“The current talks will set a precedent for what is and isn’t fair game for negotiations down the road. If everything other than discretionary spending is already being declared off-limits, it’s hard to imagine how we could ever muster the will to go after bigger parts of the budget later.”
Republicans were not impressed. “Democrats’ steadfast refusal to cut another dime from the bloated Washington budget has left them no choice, it seems, but to propose raising taxes on American families and small businesses so that they can continue spending at unsustainable levels,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.) says: “If Democrats weren’t already all over the map on budgetary issues, Senator Schumer confirms that notion with his call to ‘reset’ the funding debate to include cuts to mandatory spending and tax reform in the budget measures. But there’s a problem, Senate Democrats have failed to show leadership on spending, the budget, and entitlements. Calling for a ‘reset’ may grab a few headlines, but the truth of the matter is Senator Schumer and Leader Reid don’t have a plan.”
A senior GOP Senate aide tells NRO: “It doesn’t help to hit reset if you aren’t ready to install a new operating system. Senator Schumer would do the country a great service by defining in detail what ‘all of the above’ means. Reducing discretionary spending is part of our ‘all of the above’ strategy and always has been.”