ATLANTA -- The way to avoid budget confrontations like the pending debt-ceiling standoff is to set spending caps and require a super majority to exceed them, according to Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Some Georgia conservatives exhibit little faith the mechanism will work and suggest the Georgia Republican is been duped by Democrats in Washington.
Chambliss has been part of the Gang of Six made up of three Republican and three Democratic senators who have spent six months developing a proposal that could win votes from both parties. He gave his most detailed description of it Thursday in a conference call with reporters.
The outline calls for future spending caps and the lowering of tax rates by immediately eliminating some deductions. Popular deductions for home mortgages and charitable contributions would remain.
"Those who say we're having a tax increase simply haven't looked at what the facts are,” he said.
The six existing tax brackets would shrink to three, and the top rate would drop from 35 percent to no more than 29.
“We’re going to see every taxpayer have a lower tax rate than they do today,” he said.
A bipartisan commission would recommend future spending caps that Congress would have to approve without being able to change.
Anyone wanting emergency aid for a flood, drought or other disaster to exceed the spending cap would have to file a separate bill -- no so-called omnibus packages that include spending for multiple agencies. Such emergency bills would ratchet down spending everywhere else by the same amount if the money isn’t available in the treasury.
The only way to avoid the ratcheting down is for each budget-buster bill to require 67 votes in the Senate, equal to the minimum to ratify a treaty or a constitutional amendment.
“We do something historic in that respect,” he said. “...That’s the best self-enforcement mechanism that we have in place.”
Conservative leaders provided a transcript of his explanation weren’t convinced.
Erick Erickson, a talk-show host on WSB-AM in Atlanta and blogger at RedState.com with a national following, says similar caps, trigger mechanisms and spending commissions have failed in the past..
“We've had 17 deficit commissions in 30 years, and the debt has gone from $1 trillion to $14 trillion,” he said. “And there is no way a present Congress can bind a future Congress. A future Congress can just scrap the plan.”
“Hogwash,” said Virginia Galloway, head of Americans for Prosperity Georgia. “... The American people aren't gullible enough to believe that Congress has any ability to control spending outside of a balanced-budget amendment. Georgians want Saxby to cease his 'gang activity' of carrying water for tax increases (the obvious effect of removing deductions) and focus his efforts on cutting spending now, not over the next 10 years."
Only a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget can bind future Congresses, but that’s not likely to pass.