Idaho’s Minnick, LaRocco sign open letter to Congress, Obama urging debt deal

Idaho Democrats Walt Minnick and Larry LaRocco are among 118 former lawmakers urging Congress and President Obama to undertake comprehensive tax and spending reforms with “sufficient savings to put our debt on a sustainable path while, in the short term, preserving the economic recovery.”

The letter titled, “We’ve Found Common Ground — So Can You,” appeared Tuesday in Politico, an influential Washington, D.C., political website. It was signed by 67 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents and sponsored by Fix the Debt, a coalition of business and other groups pressing for big changes to government subsidies, health and retirement benefits, Medicare, Social Security and tax reform.

Minnick and LaRocco both served in the 1st Congressional District, Minnick from 2009-11, LaRocco from 1991-95.

Among the partners in Fix the Debt is BIPAC, a Washington, D.C.-based business group led by Idahoan Greg Casey, a former president of the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry and chief of staff to former Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Another partner is the Washington-based Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which is led by Maya MacGuineas.

MacGuineas was in Boise in February for a forum on budget and debt issues that included Idaho GOP Sen. Mike Crapo and Idaho 2nd District Republican Rep. Mike Simpson, who have advocated major reforms that include spending cuts and tax reform that increases revenue. Also at the forum were Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo. Simpson, the co-chairman of Obama’s 2010 debt commission, is a signatory to the Fix the Debt letter. Crapo was a member of the commission.

The forum was sponsored by the James A. and Louise McClure Center for Public Policy Research at the University of Idaho. The late James McClure, a Republican, represented Idaho in Congress from 1967 to 1981, six years in the House and 18 in the Senate.

The full text of the letter is in the link above and copied below:

We, the undersigned former Members of Congress, urge the House, Senate and President to come together to address our fiscal situation and the long-term drivers of the debt while prioritizing investments in the country’s future, strengthening vital entitlement programs and reforming our tax code to make the country more competitive. It is imperative that these crucial efforts be undertaken in a manner that generates sufficient savings to put our debt on a sustainable path while, in the short term, preserving the economic recovery.

The recommendations below include choices that some of us might oppose if enacted in a one-off manner. Nevertheless, we support a comprehensive package that includes many of the following elements, in no particular order:

  • A careful reexamination of the subsidies provided to businesses, farmers and other interests by the federal government
  • Reforms to federal military and civilian health and retirement benefits
  • Medicare payment and delivery-system reforms that realign incentives toward quality versus quantity of care, such as expansion of bundled payments and increased penalties for re-admissions
  • A redesign of the Medicare benefit that rationalizes cost-sharing and requires more first-dollar “skin” in the game,” but provides great protections against catastrophic costs
  • Means testing of Medicare recipients that modifies benefits received or increases premium contributions made by the wealthiest beneficiaries
  • Retirement and eligibility age adjustments that encourage work while providing protections for workers who are not able to work longer
  • The adoption of the chained CPI as a more accurate measure of inflation, with benefit enhancements to offset impact on low income beneficiaries
  • Comprehensive tax reform that reduces tax preferences in order to lower rates, promote growth, and reduce the deficit while maintaining progressivity.

Congress and the President should also begin work on a parallel process to make Social Security sustainably solvent, thereby preserving and strengthening the vital safety net provided by Social Security.

We hope that you find these recommendations helpful in building the case for tackling the still central issue of reining in our national debt, and stand ready to support any and all Members with the courage to make putting the country’s fiscal house in order a priority.

Former Senators: Evan Bayh (D-IN) • William Brock (R-TN) • Jim Broyhill (R-NC) • Richard Bryan (D-NV) • Kent Conrad (D-ND) • John Danforth (R-MO) • Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ) • Pete Domenici (R-NM) • Byron Dorgan (D-ND) • Judd Gregg (R-NH) • Gart Hart (D-CO) • Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) • George LeMieux (R-FL) • Joe Lieberman (I-CT) • Mel Martinez (R-FL) • Frank Murkowski (R-AK) • Sam Nunn (D-GA) • Charles Robb (D-VA) • Alan Simpson (R-WY) • John E. Sununu (R-NH) • George Voinovich (R-OH)

Former Representatives: Jason Altmire (D-PA) • Alvin J. Baldus (D-WI) • Steve Bartlett (R-TX) • Charlie Bass (R-NH) • Jim Bates (D-CA) • Robert Bauman (R-MD) • Mike Blouin (D-IA) • Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) • Mary Bono (R-CA) • Glen Browder (D-AL) • Beverley Byron (D-MD) • Bob Carr (D-MI) • Mike Castle (R-DE) • Rod Chandler (R-WA) • William Clinger (R-PA) • Jim Coyne (R-PA) • Bud Cramer (D-AL) • Buddy Darden (D-GA) • Hal Daub (R-NE) • Lincoln Davis (D-TN) • Jack Edwards (R-AL) • Mickey Edwards (R-OK) • Brad Ellsworth (D-IN) • Glenn English (D-OK) • Philip English (R-PA) • Thomas Ewing (R-IL) • Vic Fazio (D-CA) • Ronnie Flippo (D-AL) • Ed Foreman (R-TX) R-NM) • Bill Frenzel (R-MN) • Lou Frey (R-FL) • Don Fuqua (D-FL) • Bob Garcia (D-NY) • Dan Glickman (D-KS) • Bart Gordon (D-TN) • Frank Guarini (D-NJ) • Steve Gunderson (RWI) • Bill Gunter (D-FL) • Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) • John Hiler (R-IN) • Baron Hill (D-IN) • Joe Hoeffel (D-PA) • Marjorie Holt (R-MD) • Darlene Hooley (D-OR) • Amo Houghton (R-NY) • Earl Hutto (D-FL) • John Jenrette (D-SC) • Don Johnson (D-GA) • Jim Jones (D-OK) • William J Keating (R-OH) • Martha Keys (D-KS) • Larry Kissell (D-NC) • Jim Kolbe (D-AZ) • Ernie Konnyu (R-CA) • Ken Kramer (R-CO) • Nick Lampson (D-TX) • Larry LaRocco (D-ID) • Elliott Levitas (D-GA) • Dave McCurdy (D-OK) • Matthew McHugh (D-NY) • Alex McMillan (R-NC) • Thomas McMillen (D-MD) • Charles Melancon (D-LA) • Enid Greene Mickelsen (R-UT) • David Minge (D-MN) • Walt Minnick (D-ID) • Jim Moody (D-WI) • Connie Morella (R-MD) • Bruce Morrison (D-CT) • Jim Nussle (R-IA) • Glenn Nye (D-VA) • Mike Oxley (R-OH) • Liz Patterson (D-SC) • Lewis Payne (D-VA) • Tim Penny (I-MN) • John Porter (R-IL) • Jack Quinn (R-NY) • Carlos Romero-Barcelo (D-PR) • J. Roy Rowland (D-GA) • Marty Russo (D-IL) • Ronald Sarasin (R-CT) • Chris Shays (R-CT) • David Skaggs (D-CO) • Jim Slattery (D-KS) • Peter Smith (R-VT) • Zack Space (D-OH) • Charlie Stenholm (D-TX) • Dick Swett (D-NH) • Robin Tallon (D-SC) • John Tanner (D-TN) • Tom Tauke (R-IA) • Lindsay Thomas (D-GA) • Esteban Torres (D-CA) • Jim Turner (D-TX) • Jim Walsh (R-NY) • Zach Wamp (R-TN) • Ed Weber (R-OH) • Albert Wynn (D-MD) • Bill Zeliff (R-NH)

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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