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Simpson-Bowles model budget proposal quietly crushed in House vote Wednesday


Remember that bipartisan debt proposal adored by the White House at the time it was conceived, the media during the debt crisis last summer, and Republican presidential candidates on the trail whenever it's mentioned; the Simpson-Bowles plan? Well a version of that dream went quietly into the night yesterday, vastly underreported and crushed in a House vote 38 to 382, the first time a proposal based on the bipartisan plan was brought to the floor.

The Simpson-Bowles plan was conceived in Spring 2010 by a bipartisan presidential commission and would have directed lawmakers to reduce the federal deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years through a mix of spending cuts and tax increases. The House vote Wednesday was on a proposal brought to the floor by Ohio Republican Rep. Steve LaTourette and Tennessee Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper, that called for $1.2 trillion in tax increases over the coming decade, which is less than the $2 trillion-plus in revenue increases called for by former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming.

"If not now, when?" The Wall Street Journal reports Rep. LaTourette asked his colleagues before the vote. Only 22 Democrats and 16 Republicans supported the proposal. WSJ reports that liberal and conservative groups appeared to be so alarmed that the budget resolution might gain momentum Wednesday night, that they issued sharp news releases hours before the vote warning members not to compromise.

"Messrs. Cooper and LaTourette said they were hopeful their proposal, even if it failed, would begin bipartisan negotiations toward a deficit-reduction deal before November.

'This is like an acorn that can grow into a mighty oak tree,' Mr. Cooper said in an interview, though he conceded that he wished 'it was a larger acorn.'"

The Weekly Standard wrote Wednesday that "a vote for the LaTourette-Cooper Plan Is a Vote for Obamacare."

House Budget Committee Chairman Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, commended the effort but spoke against the plan, saying it relied too heavily on tax increases and not enough on spending cuts. House Minority Whip Steny Hoeyr said the LaTourette-Cooper version of the Simpson-Bowles plan, which he has previous lauded,  had come prematurely.

"In order to achieve a big and balanced deficit-reduction package, we must build a broad consensus. The budget substitute offered tonight by Reps. Jim Cooper and Steve LaTourette came to the floor before that broad consensus could be achieved, which is why I voted against it,” Hoyer said to The Hill.

Ezra Klein of The Washington Post commented that the vote results Wednesday confirm longstanding suspicions within The White House of what would happen if a Simpson-Bowles-like plan was brought to the floor.

"But Wednesday's vote — which considered a version of SImpson-Bowles with somewhat less in tax increases -- is at least suggestive evidence that the White House was right and the proposal would never have passed because, in the end, the problem with Simpson-Bowles wasn't that the president didn't say enough nice things about it, but that members of Congress didn't want to vote for it.

Now think back to August. Consider all the forces pushing towards a big deal: The media, which loves bipartisan deficit-reduction packages. The Speaker of the House of Representatives. The President of the United States. The business community. Washington's deficit-reduction community. And still, the underlying reality of the tumultuous negotiations was that the two sides couldn't line up the votes for anything even approaching a reasonable package. That's why the negotiations were so tumultuous."

LaTourette and Cooper expected defeat Wednesday, according to The Washington Post, but had hoped for at least 100 votes of support, a number matching the members who signed a letter in the fall urging that the debt reduction "supercommittee" adopt a balanced approach to the debt similar to the Simpson-Bowles proposal.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that the plan brought to the floor Wednesday is one of six budget proposals before the House coming in preparation of December, when Congress will have to deal with a slew of critical financial issues including the extension of the Bush tax cuts, the start of the spending-slashing sequester, the expiration of the payroll tax holiday, and another needed increase in the nation’s debt ceiling.

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