Deficit-cutting plan advances in uphill climb
By Donna Smith and Kevin Drawbaugh
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two more lawmakers pledged on Thursday to support a plan to slash the U.S. budget deficit drawn up by the co-chairmen of a presidential commission, but the plan still faced long odds of moving to Congress.
With anxiety over government debt roiling markets in Europe and driving global capital into U.S. Treasury bonds, Republican Senators Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo said they will vote for the bold proposal at a decisive commission meeting on Friday.
But Republican Representative Paul Ryan said on Thursday he will vote against the plan, saying it does too little to tackle health care costs and relies too much on tax increases.
The announcements brought to nine the number of commission members backing the plan, with 14 votes needed to trigger congressional action on it. But analysts are betting that level of support will not materialize on the 18-member commission.
"It remains highly unlikely that any proposal will get the necessary 14 votes to become an official recommendation," said Steve McMillin, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a Washington policy advisory firm.
The co-chairmen of the commission -- Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson -- unveiled the plan on Wednesday. The commission was set up by President Barack Obama in February to find ways to balance the federal budget.
If the plan fails to win 14 votes, its progress through official channels ends, but its influence could go on.
"We think it will be a baseline for next year's budget battles; we believe significant components could find their way into the president's budget to be released in February as well as congressional budget proposals," said Brian Gardner, policy analyst at investment firm Keefe Bruyette & Woods. Continued...