“Non-defense discretionary spending represents less than one-fifth of total federal spending,” Murray said. “But listening to the debates here in D.C. over the last few months, you would think this small piece of the pie was a whole lot bigger.”
Aides confirmed to National Journal that panel members Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, clashed with Democratic members over the outline of a Democratic deficit reduction plan presented during Tuesday’s private meeting. Staff was asked to leave the room following the exchange. Reuters reported on Wednesday that Democrats proposed $2.5 trillion to $3 trillion in measures to reduce the budget deficit, including revenue increases and significant cuts to Medicare.
Kyl and committee staff have said pointed exchanges are not unusual in private committee meetings. The panel is stalled, with members unable to resolve the problem posed by GOP insistence that any plan not include new taxes, aides have said. Democrats will not discuss significant entitlement cuts without GOP concessions on taxes.
In an appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe Wednesday ahead of the meeting, committee member Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., said he was “cautiously optimistic that we’ll reach an agreement.”
But he said the committee is “not quite there yet.”
As has become the norm during the committee’s public hearings, protesters interrupted the proceedings at points. One man who appeared to be aligned with Code Pink complained loudly that he had not received a written copy of Elmendorf’s testimony. At one point a woman wearing a shirt that read “GREED KILLS” walked up behind Elmendorf to shout that the committee was not listening to the public.
Murray requested the Capitol Police to restore order, prompting two guards to remove the woman as she called out, appropriating the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement: “I speak for the 99 percent: End the wars and tax the rich!”
Hensarling and Murray on Tuesday announced a Nov. 1 public hearing focusing on an “overview of previous debt proposals.” Authors of prominent debt reduction plans are slated to appear. Former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles are scheduled to testify on the proposal they drafted with the president’s fiscal commission last year. Former Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin and former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., will testify on their plan.
The committee must present its plan to Congress by Nov. 23, though Elmendorf has said that the group will need to submit a proposal to CBO early next month to have it scored in time.
Dan Friedman contributed