By Jessica Eisenbrey
DOVER — With just one week to go until the nation’s defi cit reduction supercommittee is required to release a recommendation to trim at least $1.2 trillion of the national deficit over a 10-year period, Sen. Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., and others in Congress are urging the committee to “go big” and produce a robust deficit reduction package.
“While we may not agree with everything, we do believe that we should go big,” Sen. Carper said. “Rather than just do barely enough to get by, we should take a substantial step and demonstrate to the American people that we can still govern and come up with a way to actually get our defi cit back down.”
The 12-member panel, which includes members of the U.S. House and Senate, was created by the Budget Control Act of 2011 during the debt crisis showdown in early August.
Members of the committee have until Nov. 23 to come up with recommendations.
Sen. Carper said he wasn’t always supportive of the creation of such a committee.
“I was among those who were unenthusiastic,” he said, adding that previous commissions had already outlined possible savings and a “roadmap” the government could use to reduce the deficit. “We should follow that roadmap ... The idea of not following the roadmap and simply creating a committee to fall back on is not what I wanted to do.”
Questions still remain about whether or not the committee will be able to present recommendations by next week. While these doubts exist, Sen. Carper said the members are working hard to find compromise.
“A number of very good people have been appointed to the commission, and I think they’re working very hard to try and find common ground,” he said.
Sen. Carper and some of his colleagues have also attempted to share their own ideas for deficit reductions with members of the supercommittee.
“I’ve talked with them verbally and presented them with ideas in writing,” Sen. Carper said.
These ideas include:
- Implementing postal reform: Sen. Carper said reforming the Postal Service could save the federal government about $15 billion a year.
- Closing the tax gap: Each year more than $300 billion in taxes are not being paid to the IRS, said Sen. Carper.
- Strengthening the integrity of Medicare and Medicaid: At least $70 billion in cuts could be found by stopping improper payments and correcting mistakes and accounting errors. An additional $50 billion could also be eliminated by addressing fraud.
- Improving federal agency information technology management: “It’s estimated we spent about $80 billion last year on information technology projects,” Sen. Carper said. “Unfortunately, about 25 percent of our projects are over budget and behind schedule. We have been putting a real spotlight on this bad performance.”
- Improving federal agency property management and disposal: “The federal government is a huge owner of property,” Sen. Carper said. “ We own way more than we need. There are tons of properties we don’t use. We should sell them and get rid of them. If we do that we’ll save billions of dollars a year.”
The senator said he also supports giving the president enhanced line item veto authority, which would allow the reduction of wasteful appropriations and eliminate duplicative programs. Sen. Carper, along with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Dan Coats, R-Ind.; and Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act in January. The bill would grant the president this vetoing authority.
Sen. Carper said he supports a four-year test drive of sorts for the authority.
“We’ll try it for four years,” he said. “If the president abuses it, it goes away.”