National debt: 'Time for gridlock is over'

crapo_simpson_bowles.gi.top.jpgSen. Mike Crapo (right), shown with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, said adopting a debt plan could help the economy. By Jeanne Sahadi, senior writer


WASHINGTON(CNNMoney) -- As lawmakers continued to butt heads over how much spending should be cut over the next seven months, a few senators on Tuesday were trying to keep the focus where they think it belongs -- the next several decades.

"The time for gridlock is over. We do not have time to go around the bush and around the bush and around the bush to debate the specifics of our perfect solutions," said Republican Sen. Mike Crapo.

Crapo was speaking on Capitol Hill at the launch of the Moment of Truth project, created to help build momentum for a bipartisan plan to reduce the debt. He is part of a small group of senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans known as the "Gang of 6" -- trying to craft legislation to that end.

The group's starting point is the plan presented last December by President Obama's debt commission, which was led by former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who served as White House chief of staff under President Clinton.

The commission's proposal would cut $4 trillion in debt over a decade. It would set caps on spending and revenue, overhaul the tax code by eliminating most tax breaks and lowering rates, reduce health care and defense spending and make Social Security solvent for the next 75 years.

In short, the commission wrangled both parties' sacred cows.

Crapo sat on the panel and voted for its report. No one liked every part of the plan, he said Tuesday, but the 61% who signed on to it agreed that adopting a comprehensive long-term plan would do more to help the economy grow by boosting investor and business confidence than any one part of the plan could help or hurt the economy.

Another panel member, Dave Cote, the CEO of Honeywell International (HON, Fortune 500), said the current sparring over the 2011 budget is like "chasing ants and ignoring the elephants."

It will be up to this Congress, Cote said, to step up and protect the country from a fiscal crisis that could be far worse than the financial crisis in 2008.

If bond investors lose confidence that the United States will rein in its debt, they could without warning start demanding higher interest rates. In turn, a spike in rates would make consumer loans more expensive and hurt jobs and the economy.

"It's Main Street that gets hurt because we didn't act when we should have," Cote said. "It's been said many times but it's still true: No guts, no glory."

But for the country to act proactively will require bipartisan support -- not just from lawmakers but from business leaders and the public, said Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, another member of the Gang of 6.

Generating that political will is by far the hardest task facing the lawmakers.

"Right now we have a lot of work to do just the six of us," said Dick Durbin, who is the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and sat on the president's commission.

Durbin noted that there are still strongly held views among members about what to incorporate in the legislation.

And he allowed that the group may fail in its efforts, given how hard it will be to get 60 votes of support in the Senate. But if they don't succeed, he said, short of a crisis he's not sure when the next opportunity for bipartisan agreement will come around. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,920.21 115.41 0.65%
Nasdaq 4,774.79 9.41 0.20%
S&P 500 2,074.72 4.07 0.20%
Treasuries 2.16 -0.02 -0.97%
Data as of 2:53pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Gilead Sciences Inc 94.78 -13.67 -12.61%
Bank of America Corp... 17.70 0.08 0.45%
Apple Inc 112.54 0.76 0.68%
Facebook Inc 81.49 1.61 2.02%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.00 0.02%
Data as of 2:37pm ET

Sections

Private equity titan CEO David Rubenstein drops some rhymes in a holiday message to investors. More

Sure you could spend more this holiday, but your better bet is to put the money you save in your 401(k). More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

Retired union workers could see their pensions cut under a controversial new law, but many say they're not sure how they'll make ends meet if big cuts go through. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.