Senators Who Want Deficit Reduction Can Reduce the Deficit By Refusing to Vote in Favor of Deficit-Increasing Measures

No legislative body in the world can match the United States Senate for preening self-regard, and I think only the Senate could produce a document similar to the one Lori Montgomery profiles here:

More than 60 senators from both parties are calling on President Obama to lead them in developing a comprehensive plan to rein in record budget deficits, a powerful sign of bipartisan willingness to abandon long-held positions on entitlement spending and taxes. In a letter sent Friday to the White House, the 64 senators urge Obama “to support a broad approach to solving our current budget problems” along the lines of recommendations issued last year by a presidentially appointed commission. That plan calls for sharp cuts in government spending, elimination or reduction of dozens of popular tax breaks and an overhaul of Social Security that would include raising the retirement age to 69 for today’s toddlers.

The first thing that’s ridiculous about this, is that if 64 Senators want to vote for the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations, then there’s nothing stopping them from voting for the Simpson-Bowles Commission’s recommendations. They don’t need support from Barack Obama to do so. If anything, Barack Obama endorsing Simpson-Bowles would make it more difficult for Republicans to endorse it.

The second thing that’s ridiculous about this is that the White House has already produced a plan for reducing the budget deficit below the “current policy” baseline. You can find that proposal exactly where you think you’d find it—Barack Obama’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget proposal.

The third thing that’s ridiculous about this is that congress has already voted on a plan for reducing the budget deficit below the Obama administration’s proposal. It’s called “do nothing.” If you don’t repeal the Affordable Care Act, don’t do a Medicare “doc fix” and don’t extend the Bush tax cuts then the medium-term deficit problem basically goes away. Most people don’t regard this as a credible policy trajectory because they think congress wants to do “doc fixes” and wants to extend at least some of the Bush tax cuts. Which is fine. But it means that all a member of congress needs to do in order to effectuate massive deficit reduction is say “I’m open to voting for doc fixes or ACA repeal or tax cut extensions, but only if they’re offset—I refuse to vote for any measure that increases the deficit.”

That instead they want to write letters to Barack Obama is, again, a testament to the fact that the Senate’s preening self-regard is matched only by its lack of comprehension of the issues.