Letters From the West

Crapo, Simpson hopeful debt deal is possible this year

Sen. Mike Crapo (left) and Rep. Mike Simpson talk about the debt crisis.

Sen. Mike Crapo (left) and Rep. Mike Simpson talk about the debt crisis at the Idaho Association of Industry and Commerce office in Boise.

Idaho Republicans Sen. Mike Crapo and Rep. Mike Simpson expect $85 billion in automatic budget cuts to go into effect March 1 before their colleagues and President Barack Obama begin serious talks about cutting the deficit.

Both Idaho lawmakers are prominent members of bipartisan groups in the Senate and the House dedicated to cutting $4 trillion to $5 trillion from the federal debt growth path over the next decade. They agree that both tax increases and cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare have to be on the table.

Crapo said at a join press conference in Boise Tuesday that cutting the debt before the United States loses it ability to borrow at low rates is the most critical issue facing the nation and perhaps the most critical ever.

“The American Dream is on the line,” Crapo said.

Simpson and Crapo were in Boise Tuesday for symposium on the debt co-sponsored by the James and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy at the University of Idaho and Idaho Public Television. You can watch and participate on IPTV’s World Channel at 8 p.m.

Also speaker are former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan, Simpson, who co-chaired the Simpson-Bowles Commission on the debt, and Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner,  one of the so-called “Gang of  Six” senators with Crapo seeking a grand debt deal.

Budget cuts and tax increases of $2.8 trillion over the next decade made in domestic and defense spending are part of the solution, Crapo and Simpson agreed. But Congress has been unwilling to restructure entitlement programs that will cause Americans pain; it’s also been unwilling to reform taxes by getting rid of popular tax breaks.

After the sequestration puts “stupid” across-the-board cuts in place, Congress will have to address a possible shut-down of the government and raising the debt ceiling again, Simpson said.

“I think the next 90 to 100 days are going to decide the future of our country,” Simpson said.

It will take a bipartisan deal because the public is not going to like what they have to do to prevent the nation from losing its solvency, said Crapo, who also served on the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

“The worst option is the status quo,” Crapo said.

Simpson, who has teamed up with Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland in supporting what they call the “go big” plan, is hopeful a grand deal can be forged this year.

“I honestly believe there is a governing majority in the House and Senate ready to make the tough vote,” Simpson said.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West