Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) “on Thursday called the way the U.S. borrows money a ‘Ponzi scheme’ that could soon throw the country into financial turmoil,” according to the Floor Action blog.
"It took time for this to set in," said Risch, according to northern Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene Press. "What I realized was this country is no longer the master of its own destiny."
Risch described in detail how the Bureau of Public Debt, through the U.S. Department of Treasury, goes about borrowing the $4 billion to $5 billion a day needed to keep the federal government running.
"There’s no money," said Risch. "It’s a Ponzi scheme."
The suddenly “white-hot issue of deficit caps — now a central front in the battle over raising the debt ceiling — will be the subject of a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee,” Roll Call reports.
Panel Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced the hearing on the issue Thursday morning. It will include testimony from former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who was part of the bipartisan Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction plan in the 1980s.
Baucus has said he backs the idea of a deficit cap as part of a plan to increase the federal debt ceiling. Republicans generally want spending caps instead, although they also are pushing for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced in a press release statement today that the Senate “will vote on the budget President Obama submitted to Congress in February.”
“I understand that the Majority Leader would like to have a vote on the House-passed Ryan budget and we will,” McConnell said. “But we’ll have a vote on the President’s budget at the same time. Since there is no Democrat budget in the Senate, we’ll give our colleagues an opportunity to stand with the President in failing to address the problems facing our nation while calling for trillions in new spending, massive new debt and higher taxes on American energy, families and small businesses across the country.”
Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) “indicated this week he will work with colleagues committed to a ‘fiscally conservative budget’ as the parties try to forge a spending agreement for fiscal year 2012,” The Hill reports.
Calling himself a “fiscal hawk,” Nelson, who is up for reelection in 2012, said he wants to implement “substantial cuts” in government spending.
"We need to be engaging in even more cuts than we were able to make in the 2011 budget,” Nelson said at the Kearney Rotary Club, according to a news release from his office. "Let me reassure you that I’m for substantial cuts in government spending, but they must be made wisely."
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “confirmed on a conference call with reporters Wednesday that he’ll force Senate Republicans to vote on the controversial House GOP budget,” Talking Points Memo reports.
"We’re going to have an opportunity in the Senate to vote for the [Paul] Ryan budget," Reid told reporters, to "see if Republicans in the Senate like the Ryan budget as much as their colleagues [in the House] did."
According to The Hill, Reid spokesman “Jon Summers confirmed that the majority leader will hold a vote on it, but said that the timing has not yet been decided.”
Don Stewart, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), pressured Reid to vote on a Democratic proposal.
"A better question is: when will he vote on the Democrat budget?" he said, "When [is he] going to vote on the president’s budget?"
Senate Republicans serving on the Budget Committee sent a letter to Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) today “urging him to drag the budget process into the light of day — or at least onto the Internet,” POLITICO reports.
In the letter obtained by POLITICO, the senators ask Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, to post his 2012 budget proposal online at least three days before the committee marks up the bill. In recent years, the budget has been “presented, marked up and passed out of committee in less than 48 hours.”
The GOP senators also want Conrad to hold a series of public meetings where they can offer amendments to the budget plan.
“Having an open, public process in the Senate allows the American people to directly participate in the decision over how we spend their money,” the senators wrote. “The American people do not, and should not, trust Washington with their tax dollars — for years it has frittered away those tax dollars and brought our nation to the brink of insolvency.”
Conrad’s office responded to the letter saying the Republicans aren’t asking for anything new. "The Budget Committee has always had a completely open mark-up process for the budget resolution," said Stu Nagurka, Communications Director, Senate Budget Committee in a statement. "And Chairman Conrad understands the urgency of dealing with our nation’s long-term deficits. That’s why he has been working hard for months on a bipartisan, comprehensive deficit reduction plan. He wants to give the Group of 6 a chance to reach agreement so that he could consider using that bipartisan plan as a framework for the Senate budget resolution."
In addition to [Ranking Member Jeff] Sessions, the letter was signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, John Cornyn of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune of South Dakota, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) “office confirmed reports on Tuesday that the Nevada Democrat is thinking of holding a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget,” according to The Huffington Post.
That would force moderate Republican senators to take an uncomfortable political stand.
“He’s considering it,” Reid’s top spokesman Jon Summers told The Huffington Post.
The idea, first reported in The Hill newspaper, would be to build off the skeptical reaction that the Ryan budget has engendered at local town hall events this past week. After voting in near unanimity to pass the measure — which would make drastic spending cuts, lower tax rates and fundamentally alter Medicare and Medicaid — House Republicans have faced hostile receptions back home.