While Washington, D.C., is embroiled in a debate over which party—if any—has a solution to the debt crisis, Idaho congressmen say any successful plan must begin with significant cuts in spending.
"The senator has said all along, we're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar we spend," said Brad Hoaglun, spokesman for Sen, Jim Risch, R-Idaho. "You can't keep going at that rate."
The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote Thursday evening on a plan presented by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, that would cut the federal deficit by about $1.8 trillion over 10 years.
The plan would also raise the debt ceiling in a two-step process, allowing the president to request a $400 billion increase immediately with an additional $500 billion subject to a vote of disapproval.
Though the president could override this vote and raise the ceiling, lawmakers would be on record as for or against the increase.
Despite strong Democratic opposition and doubt over whether GOP house members will vote along party lines, Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, said he remained optimistic that the plan would pass on to the Senate.
"Speaker Boehner will ultimately get the votes," Crapo told Fox News in an interview Wednesday.
Results of the vote, which was set to occur at 6 p.m. EST on Thursday, were not available as of press deadline.
Crapo and Risch say they will not support the plan currently in front of the Senate. That plan, introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., cuts $1.2 trillion in spending over 10 years and raises the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion until 2013.
The Idahoans' concern is that Reid's assumed savings from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq may not be valid.
"They're showing cuts that are not cuts at all," Hoaglun said. "It's just money that won't be spent."
Crapo told CNBC news earlier this week that the current debate centers on "whose savings are real?" As a result, he said he did not think the Reid plan would pass the Senate.
But even if Congress passes it or a Republican-supported plan to raise the debt ceiling, the crisis isn't over, Crapo said.
"Once we get past this debt-ceiling battle, we still have a debt crisis," he said, which is why he has been working with the Gang of Six, a bipartisan task force bent on reducing government spending.
According to Crapo's office, the plan would cut the nation's deficit by $4 trillion over the next 10 years.
Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, could not be reached for comment on how he planned to vote on Boehner's plan, but he stated in a release that he supports any cutbacks in government spending.
"I am hearing loudly and clearly from Idahoans that they want spending reduced and our budget put on a path toward balance," Simpson said. "They want solutions that start with significant reductions."
Hoaglun said Risch also sees the need for drastic cuts to keep the government sustainable.
"If spending doesn't change, [the government] is going to run out of money," he said.
The debate is likely to continue until the Treasury Department's Aug. 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling. Hoaglun said he couldn't speculate on the eventual results of the deliberations.
"It's an interesting dynamic," he said. "We'll just have to see how it plays out."
Katherine Wutz: email@example.com
Simpson cuts EPA spending
Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) has spent much of this week debating the Interior Appropriations Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill he helped draft. Simpson is chair of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, one of the 12 subcommittees that writes the federal budget for the House. His appropriations bill reduces spending by 7 percent from 2011 levels but has come under fire from environmentalists who say it could close wildlife refuges, eliminate jobs and reduce funding for climate change programs. The House Appropriations Committee passed the bill last week, but it must still be approved by the full House before passing to the Senate.
Here are a few bill highlights:
- Provisions preventing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from using government funds to list new species under the Endangered Species Act.
- $1.5 billion in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.
- Provisions that prevent the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions, hiring new employees or implementing requirements for cooling water intakes at nuclear and other energy plants.
- $10 million increase for the U.S. Forest Service's Grazing Management System and $16 million more for the BLM's Range Management Program.