Debt Panel Co-Chair Says Lawmakers More Concerned About Votes Than Cuts

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Debt panel co-chair says lawmakers more concerned about votes than cutsOne of the leaders of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has accused Congressional lawmakers of playing politics instead of tackling the Federal deficit with substantial proposals.

Former United States Senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) appeared on CNN's State of the Union on Feb. 6. He said that politicians need to start digging into the "big four" — Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and defense — instead of targeting cuts that appeal to their voter base, such as earmarks, foreign aid or Congressional pensions.

"That's just sparrow belch in the midst of the typhoon," Simpson told the media outlet.

Last year, Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a Democrat, were appointed by President Barack Obama to craft a proposal that addressed America's debt. The duo introduced their ideas in December — which included $4 trillion in cuts over the next decade — but lawmakers have been cautious to support plans that cut defense spending, reform the tax code and revamp social security.

Simpson said that re-election aspirations prevent necessary reform because legislators are worried that endorsing controversial cuts could alienate voters.

In an op-ed for The New York Times on Feb. 6, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew revealed that Obama has conceded several spending cuts in his 2012 budget proposal. Lew wrote that Obama will slash his community service block grants, which are allocated by cities and towns to grassroots groups, by approximately $350 million. In addition, the President will propose a $125 million reduction in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which supports environmental cleanup. 

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