Durbin, Kirk differ on downsizing deficit

August 10, 2011 3:29:57 PM PDT
Illinois' U.S. senators offered divergent perspectives Wednesday on how to fix the nation's economic instability on the heels of a credit downgrade.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin warns of more downgrades as Republican Senator Mark Kirk calls for congress to get back to work.

At issue between them: how much, if at all, should the government raise taxes to reduce the deficit and restore the nation's AAA credit rating? The senators' differences highlight at least some of the disagreement in Washington as a whole.

"I would say put it all on the table - and that includes revenue," said Durbin.

When Durbin says "revenue," he means tax increases on wealthy Americans and corporations to beef up the U.S. Treasury.

Durbin theorizes that Republican resistance to higher taxes as part of the nation's long-term deficit reduction is a major reason that Standard and Poor's downgraded the nation's credit rating.

"The failure to include everything in our conversation about long-term deficit reduction made them nervous and uncertain and led to the downgrade," said Durbin.

Earlier, Republicans named their six members to the joint House/Senate Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. The reputed anti-tax increase hardliners will join six Democrats on the panel to find an additional $1.5 trillion in budget savings over the next decade.

"I don't think there's any consensus, especially in the current House of Representatives, for any tax rate raising," said Kirk.

Kirk says that in terms of revenue generation, federal tax reform is more likely to happen than tax increases, and that work to achieve reform should begin immediately.

"I think the Joint Commission should start meeting next Monday, and the Congress should be back at work," said Kirk.

Durbin says the fact that Republicans have already ruled out tax rate increases is putting the government's credit at risk for more downgrades.

"If we are going to have meaningful long-term deficit reduction, we put everything on the table, and I mean everything, and that includes revenue, entitlement programs, and spending," said Durbin.

If the committee cannot agree on a deficit reduction plan - with or without new revenue - automatic spending cuts would be triggered in hundreds of domestic and defense programs.

The 12 members have until Thanksgiving to complete their work.

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