Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., kicked off a three-day tour across North Dakota on Monday by visiting Grand Forks, touring UND and meeting with the Herald editorial board to discuss his ongoing work to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan plan to cut the nation’s deficits.
He stopped by UND to learn about the university’s latest research on unmanned aircraft systems, calling UND and Grand Forks “the center of UAS development” as the region continues to develop military, research and commercial applications of the technology. You can read more about his UND visit in Tuesday’s Herald.
But Conrad also visited the Herald editorial board on Monday and talked a lot about his ongoing work to come up with a deficit reduction plan, and I thought some of his comments would be good to post on Prairie Fire. I was curious about some reports I read online Monday morning – including a post to the Say Anything Blog – that said Conrad was apparently warming up to the idea of using Republican Paul Ryan’s budget as a “framework” for a deficit reduction proposal. I thought that was kind of surprising, given how vocally Conrad has spoken out against Ryan’s plan – which would aim for a $6 trillion deficit cut largely by cutting spending.
So I asked Conrad about the rumors, which he said just aren’t true. “I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “It has nothing to do at all with what we’re working on.”
Here’s part of my story about Conrad’s visit to Grand Forks:
Conrad also met with the Herald editorial board, discussing his ongoing work to come up with a comprehensive plan to cut the countryâ€™s growing deficits.
He discussed a series of charts, studies and analysis that he said all points to a â€œclearâ€ message: â€œIf we donâ€™t face up to this debt, we will face diminished economic prospects and event the prospect of a financial crisis,â€ he said.
Conrad said work continues with the so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan group of six senators who are negotiating to develop a plan to slash the nationâ€™s deficits by about $4 trillion over the next decade.
Group members have agreed to not discuss the status of negotiations, he said, but Conrad said heâ€™s hopeful their four months of work will soon result in a plan.
â€œThereâ€™s still some chance we will not reach conclusion,â€ he said. â€œI think thatâ€™s considerably less likely now because we have made enormous progress. But are there still very tough issues to be resolved? Yeah.â€
Their plan includes tax reforms, spending cuts and tax increases to achieve a $4 trillion deficit cut â€” a comprehensive package unlike the one-sided approach offered up by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, he said.
Conrad said Ryanâ€™s plan, which calls for a $6 trillion deficit cut over the next decade, would result in a â€œdraconianâ€ 40 percent cut to the government while adding more than $1 trillion of tax cuts.
â€œI think itâ€™s a very unusual way to face up to this problem where youâ€™ve got revenue the lowest its been in 60 years and spending the highest, and the first thing you do is cut revenue some more,â€ he said.
The Gang of Six plan is based on recommendations by President Barack Obamaâ€™s bipartisan debt commission, he said, which could boost the odds of their budget blueprint getting enough support to pass.
â€œThereâ€™s no place else in Washington where thereâ€™s been any bipartisan agreement on any plan, so that struck our group as a place to begin,â€ he said. â€œRyanâ€™s plan has got zero Democratic support.â€