Instead, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, suggested Sunday that, during tough economic times, a commission charged solely with reducing spending was a better approach to reining in the federal budget deficit.
Last week, the Senate rejected a proposal co-sponsored by Sen. Judd Greg, a New Hampshire Republican, and Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, that would have created a bipartisan fiscal commission. The commission would have been charged with making recommendations to Congress regarding cutting spending and raising revenue. The recommendations would have been binding in the sense that Congress would have only been able to accept or reject the recommendations wholesale in an up-or-down vote; Congress would not have had the power to alter the commission’s recommendations before implementing them.
The proposal failed to garner the 60 votes necessary for passage in the Senate after seven Republicans who had previously supported the plan decided to vote against it.
McConnell defended his seven colleagues and pointed out that the president himself had decided only days before last week’s vote to back the proposal after coming under political pressure from moderates and conservatives in Democratic ranks.
McConnell also said Sunday that the nation’s fiscal challenges had more to do with excessive spending than with insufficient taxation.
“Look I don’t think anybody in the country thinks we have a problem because we tax too little. I think the problem is we spend too much,” McConnell told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King on CNN’s State of the Union.
“The American people are appalled by the amount of money we have been spending this year,” McConnell also said Sunday. A commission charged with only looking at ways of reducing spending “was a more targeted way to do the same kind of commission approach,” the Senate Minority Leader said.
“I just think that’s a better way to go,” McConnell told King.
Asked whether his preference for a commission focused on reducing spending was related to the fact that 2010 is a midterm election year when voters are likely to be weary of tax increases, McConnell said focusing only on spending was a better approach in the current economic climate.
“Look, nobody thinks that raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a good idea. Have you ever heard anybody say that? I don’t think so.”
Appearing on State of the Union in February 2009, McConnell spoke favorably about the Gregg-Conrad proposal. “I’m in favor of that kind of a move to give us the ability to tackle one of our long-term deficit problems,” McConnell said last year.
With the statutory measure having failed in the Senate, President Obama is expected to use an executive order to create a similar commission whose recommendations will not be binding on Congress.