Senator Crapo discusses state of Blair House budget talks in speech before The Ripon Society

WASHINGTON, DC – In a speech this morning to The Ripon Society, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo — a member of the so-called “Gang of Six” in the United States Senate that is trying to forge a bipartisan solution to our Nation’s long-term fiscal challenges — discussed the state of budget talks being led by Vice President Joe Biden at Blair House, the importance of reaching an agreement to reduce America’s debt and deficit, and why the time for President Obama to “step up and lead” on the issue is long overdue.

“I’m not in that room,” Crapo said, referring to the deficit reduction talks at Blair House. “And by the way, I think it’s notable that not one member of the Gang of Six is in that room. That was not by accident. The direction of the Gang of Six was threatening, in my opinion, to the White House, the leadership and both parties in Congress. In terms of what’s happening at Blair House, from what I can tell, it’s not going well. The Republicans are insisting that taxes not be on the table. The Democrats are insisting that they are. The Republicans are insisting that entitlement reform be on the table, and the Democrats are insisting that they not be. Both sides are saying, ‘Well, we’ll do one if you do.’ Actually, the Republicans are not willing to give on taxes, and the Democrats are saying, ‘We will not do entitlements unless you do taxes.’”

“They’re not talking tax reform,” Crapo continued. “They’re talking about increasing tax rates. One of the good things about the Gang of Six approach is that we got out of that whole bottle of tax battles that would raise or lower rates and said, ‘Let’s reform the code and generate more revenue in that way.’ The Blair group has not gotten into that discussion. I don’t know where it’s going to turn out. You’ve probably read all the reports that I’ve read. Speaker Boehner has got an incredible conundrum on his hands with the number of Members in his caucus who probably won’t vote for anything and the Democrats who wouldn’t vote for something that is wholly unacceptable to the majority of the Republican Members. I don’t know how the House threads that needle. It’s going to be very interesting politics.”

“I wish I could tell you that I had it all figured out, but one thing I do have a pretty strong conviction of is that at the end of the battle on the debt ceiling – and Congress will ultimately increase the debt ceiling — we will still have a debt crisis. The Gang of Six is still working and still operating. And I believe that if we can get past the final hurdles — and we still have a couple of big ones — if we can get past the final hurdles to bring about a deal among the Gang of Six, we will still have an opportunity to discuss these ideas and to roll them out in a climate in which it is increasingly imperative that we do so.”

Crapo, who has long been a leader on budget issues and was a member of the President’s Fiscal Commission last year, said the important thing was that Congress and the President agree on a plan, and expressed optimism that the Gang of Six would be able to do just that.

“The fact is that we are speeding ahead towards a cliff and we don’t have very long before the economy will reset itself. And that would be more damaging to every interest group, every American, and every concern than any of the plans that are on the table right now. I will tell you one thing that one economist told us. One of them said that the most important thing that we could do among all these options we were looking at is ‘something.’ It had to be something real — and frankly a couple of trillion dollars isn’t real enough to really get us there — but something that will convince the world markets, particularly the bond markets, that we are going to grapple with our fiscal crisis. If we can create that confidence — and that’s what I believe the Gang of Six plan does — then we will have the breathing room to work through this. So the bad news is we are facing a great risk. I think it’s the greatest risk I’ve seen America face in my lifetime and maybe forever. The good news is we have time and the ability to fix it.”

When asked when he thought the President would become fully engaged in the deficit reduction debate and the Blair House budget talks, Crapo was blunt:

“The sooner the better,” he stated. “I’ve been openly and consistently critical of the President’s absence from the debate. Remember, it was the President’s Executive Order and the President’s Fiscal Commission that started this whole situation that I’m working on. Last November, the President’s Fiscal Commission voted 11 out of 18 to adopt a plan, and to this date the President has not even adopted the plan. He hasn’t even spoken about whether he agrees with any parts of the plan. The only involvement he’s had so far is to put out his original budget, which everybody has rejected. I mean, it was joke — I’m sorry. Since that time, he’s basically said, ‘Oh, I’ll let my fiscal commission work on this.’ Then he’s rejected that. Then he said, ‘I’m going to let Congress work on that.’ And you know Congress wasn’t getting anywhere. So he finally was, I think, pushed into creating the Biden process. But even he is not engaged as I understand it very much in that process.

“The President of the United States has to lead. I hope he gets that message sooner than later. I think that he is hoping that the Biden group will come up with something so he can say, ‘Okay, this is what I’m for.’ I’m not sure that’s going to work or work well. Maybe he’s hoping the Gang of Six will come up with something so he can say, ‘Okay, this is what I’m for.’ But at some point, he has got to step up and lead.”

Prepared Remarks:

Question and Answer session:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.