WASHINGTON — Members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation presented an almost unanimous attitude of disappointment after the 12-member deficit reduction “supercommittee” formally announced its failure Monday.
Congress formed the committee in July as a bipartisan, bicameral way to attempt to attack the country’s growing federal deficits. It was tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings over 10 years, approving its plan this week and sending it to the full Congress and the president for passage by Christmas. Without such a plan in place, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts will take affect in 2013, if Congress doesn’t repeal them first.
Committee leadership admitted defeat on Monday, acknowledging that the deep partisan divides that have handcuffed Congress all session proved insurmountable in finding a way to reduce the deficit both parties acknowledge is a major problem.
“Despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve,” the committee’s chairs, Republican Rep. Jeb Hensarling and Democrat Sen. Patty Murray, said in a statement. “We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”
Minnesota’s cadre of lawmakers all said they were disappointed in the committee’s failure, but their individual responses varied as much as the wide range of policies they hoped to see in a final supercommittee deal. Some blamed the other party; others blamed gridlock in general. A couple Republicans said the automatic spending cuts to the military made them uneasy; a few Democrats said the cuts should go on anyway.
Here’s a rundown the public statements they’ve released since Monday night.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D): “I have heard from countless Minnesotans who want their representatives to come together to reduce the deficit in a balanced way. I urged my colleagues to set aside partisan politics and do what’s right for families, businesses, and the fiscal health of our nation. We have to get this done and I will continue to support sensible efforts to get our fiscal house in order and give businesses the certainty they need in these tough economic times.”
Sen. Al Franken (D): “I don’t think we’re going to be able to solve the country’s budget problems without a balance of spending cuts and new revenues. I think that Democrats put some painful cuts on the table and I’m thoroughly disappointed that Republicans haven’t been willing to meet us halfway. But as I’ve said from the beginning, no deal would be better than a bad deal because there’s an automatic mechanism in place to make budget cuts if there’s no deal, and that mechanism protects Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that are vitally important to Minnesotans.”
Rep. Tim Walz (D): “Washington is broken, and we have to do something about it. Public officials and leaders in this country need to get their act together. Americans are understandably frustrated with the bickering and gridlock that has become a staple of the way Washington operates. It’s unacceptable. We need common sense, bipartisan reform — to restore confidence in honest, open and fair government. I asked the supercommittee to ‘go big’ and find $4 trillion dollars in savings. I am disappointed they did not, but I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reduce our debt. I will also continue fighting to get our economy back on track, get folks back to work and restore transparency and accountability to Washington through proposals like the STOCK Act.”
Rep. John Kline (R): “This summer, I expressed serious concerns about how a joint committee would operate and what proposals they would offer. My concerns were realized today as Americans were reminded, once again, how broken Washington has become.
“In recent weeks it has become abundantly clear that far too few of my colleagues in Washington are interested in forcing the federal government to live within its means. Whether it was refusing to support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, ignoring the long overdue need for entitlement reform, or failing to provide framework for historic spending cuts, Washington has let down the American people. Too many in Washington think the only way to fix our debt crisis is a $1 trillion job-killing tax increase on American families and small businesses. We cannot exacerbate the jobs crisis by raising taxes and creating further economic uncertainty, and we cannot burden our children and grandchildren with an ever greater mountain of debt.”
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R): “I’m extremely disappointed that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was not able to agree on a way to address our spending-driven debt crisis, but the fact of the matter is that Washington is broken. The American people deserve better than this. We need to remember that both parties created this mess; it’s going to take Republicans and Democrats working together to clean it up.”
Rep. Betty McCollum (D): “With families across America making tough choices every day, it appears Republicans in Congress can’t stop playing political games long enough to make some really difficult decisions for the future of the country. The supercommittee’s failure means automatic cuts of $1.2 trillion in domestic and defense spending are now triggered. Even though these will be difficult cuts, I am strongly opposed to Republican proposals to tamper with the sequestration to protect defense contractors and their lobbyists.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D), with Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva (the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus): “Instead of focusing on jobs, which is the only way to grow our economy and fix the country’s deficit problems, we witnessed Republicans again refusing to compromise and putting their loyalty to lobbyists ahead of the American people. After manufacturing this crisis over the summer, Republicans insisted on protecting tax giveaways for millionaires and billionaires and eliminating the Medicare guarantee. Republicans seem more committed to protecting the one percent than to finding bipartisan solutions that create jobs.
“Last month, the Congressional Progressive Caucus submitted its recommendations to the super committee that would create jobs while protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Since the super committee failed to produce a plan, we will introduce our own legislation that reduces the deficit by trillions of dollars and puts America back to work.
“The best way to eliminate the deficit is to get America working again. Americans want leaders who work for all of us, not just the top one percent.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R): “I firmly believe that the solutions to our fiscal mess will not be solved in secret by 12 members of Congress. I opposed the creation of the super committee from the beginning. Though I will continue to support eliminating wasteful government spending of any kind, I am concerned about automatic cuts to defense.”
(Note: Her presidential campaign later released its own, more forceful statement.)
Rep. Chip Cravaack (R): “It was my sincere hope that both sides of the aisle could have reached an agreement for the sake of the American people, and that this kind of political gridlock will not persist at the expense of our children, our men and women in uniform, and our national security.
“This is yet another outrageous failure by Washington to set aside partisan bickering for the well being of our great nation.
“I voted against the Budget Control Act’s establishment of the ‘supercommittee’ because it did nothing to solve our debt crisis and would lead to even more gridlock. My concerns sadly appear to have been justified with the shameless disintegration of this process into nothing but political finger-pointing. We must come together to identify common-sense solutions. I stand ready to work with any of my colleagues in Congress, regardless of party affiliation, to rein in our soaring national debt.”
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @dhenry