Simpson and Bowles Appear on Meet the Press
Simpson and Bowles Discuss Fiscal Cliff Package
"The mountain roared and gave birth to a mouse." That was how former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) described the fiscal cliff agreement approved by Congress last week in a Sunday appearance on NBC's Meet the Press with his fellow Fiscal Commission co-chair Erskine Bowles. Bowles and Simpson expressed disappointment that the agreement fell far short of what is needed to put our fiscal house in order. Bowles also appeared on CNN's The Situation Room and CNBC's Closing Bell urging for more action after a missed "magic moment" for serious reform.
Meet the Press host David Gregory questioned Bowles and Simpson on where the fiscal cliff package leaves the country and what lawmakers need to address going forward. Both Bowles and Simpson, while relieved that the agreement avoided the sudden and drastic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts of the fiscal cliff, were disappointed that lawmakers did not pursue a bigger and bolder compromise that would have put the country on a sustainable fiscal path given the scope of the negotiations. "This was the magic moment" said Bowles. "This was our opportunity to do something really big, to bring down this deficit and put our fiscal house in order."
With this missed opportunity behind us, Bowles and Simpson urged lawmakers to start negotiating a debt reduction package now instead of waiting for the crisis of the debt ceiling and the sequester to hit. As lawmakers prepeare for a the second round of fiscal negotiations, Bowles warned of the difficulty of what remained. "We've done all the easy stuff," he said, "all of the hard decisions lay ahead of us." Bowles advised that lawmakers need to take a look at reforming our tax code, addressing health care spending which is a major driver of the debt, and making Social Security solvent.
On Thursday, Bowles appeared on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, urging Washington to stop waiting until the very last minute to negotiate. "We've had enough of this brinksmanship, this moving from crisis to crisis. That is a foolish way for any organization, small or large, much less the U.S. government, the largest economy in the world, to run its organization." Lawmakers need to begin looking now at the tough choices that must be made, instead of waiting until the end of February.
Appearing on Closing Bell Friday afternoon, Bowles reminded that neither party was solely responsible for our debt problem and it will take the work of leaders on both sides to get our fiscal house in order. “I don't care whether you're a Republican or a Democrat," said Bowles, "together we created this mess. And it's our responsibility to clean it up."
Bowles was optimistic that lawmakers could reach a deal, even with the level of partisanship in Washington. "I know it can be done because I've done it," Bowles said. "President Clinton set me up to negotiate the balanced budget agreement with Newt Gingrich. Nobody believed it could be done. Partisanship was at an all-time high because they were impeaching the President. But we got it done because we decided we would put that partisanship aside and pull together rather than apart and put the country first and that's what we've got to do now."
We've done all the easy stuff. All of the hard decisions lay ahead of us.