Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council Urges Lawmakers to Action

Oct 8, 2013

Today, the Fix the Debt Campaign's Congressional Fiscal Leadership Council released an open letter signed by a group of 120 former Members of Congress, calling for the President and Congress to start addressing the nation's fiscal problems. The members express that returning to the normal budget process is essential, and recognize that while working toward a bipartisan agreement may be difficult, it is necessary:

Procedurally, we believe that a return to Regular Order—including an active slate of committee hearings, mark-ups that produce well-vetted legislation for floor debate, legitimate conference committees to resolve inter-house differences, and passage of an annual budget resolution—is central to restoring Congress’ ability to tackle difficult issues such as this. Leadership is important, but not to the exclusion of meaningful participation of all Members. We are not naïve about the politically difficult choices that real reform entails.

We have been there, fought many of these same battles and have the scars to show for it. However, we believe that, despite recent decreases in near-term projected deficits, the fundamental imbalance between long-term projected revenues and spending demand that you act now to avoid strapping future generations with an even bleaker set of options for confronting what we all know is an unsustainable debt burden.

Importantly, the members do more that just call for action. They put forward different options that they would support in the context of a comprehensive deal. Among the policies they list:

  • A careful reexamination of the subsidies provided to businesses, farmers and other interests by the federal government
  • Reforms to federal military and civilian health and retirement benefits
  • Medicare payment and delivery-system reforms that realign incentives toward quality versus quantity of care, such as expansion of bundled payments and increased penalties for readmissions
  • A redesign of the Medicare benefit that rationalizes cost-sharing and requires more first-dollar “skin in the game,” but provides great protections against catastrophic costs
  • Means testing of Medicare recipients that modifies benefits received or increases premium contributions made by the wealthiest beneficiaries
  • Retirement and eligibility age adjustments that encourage work while providing protections for workers who are not able to work longer
  • The adoption of the chained CPI as a more accurate measure of inflation, with benefit enhancements to offset impact on low income beneficiaries
  • Comprehensive tax reform that reduces tax preferences in order to lower rates, promote growth, and reduce the deficit while maintaining progressivity. These could include making changes to the mortgage interest deduction, state & local tax deduction, tax exclusion for employer-provided health care, preferential treatment for investment income and other tax expenditures benefiting both corporations and individuals

In addition to the policies above, the former lawmakers also call for the President and Congress to begin work toward making Social Security sustainably solvent. The list shows that despite all the current divisiveness in Washington right now, there is actually quite a bit of common ground. This group knows how challenging agreeing upon a solution will be, but given the stakes, it is something that this Congress and the President must do.

Click here to read the full letter and see the list of signers.