A bipartisan coalition of 64 senators signed a letter Friday calling on President Obama to tackle entitlement reform and deficit reduction, a sign of mounting pressure from Capitol Hill to get the White House more engaged in the long-term budget debate.
While the letter did not address specifics about how to reduce the nation’s $1.4 trillion budget deficit, it urged the White House to show that it is making deficit reduction a priority.
“As you know, a bipartisan group of senators has been working to craft a comprehensive deficit reduction package based upon the recommendations of the Fiscal Commission,” the letter, which had the backing of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, read. “While we may not agree with every aspect of the Commission’s recommendations, we believe that its work represents an important foundation to achieve meaningful progress on our debt.”
Colorado Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet and Nebraska Republican Sen. Mike Johanns spearheaded the effort, and unveiled the letter during a conference call with reporters Friday morning.
“The ball is very clearly in the President’s court,” Johanns said. “We wont have any chance unless the president joins with us in this good faith effort.”
Since the beginning of the new Congress this year, both chambers have debated ways to cut the budget and address deficit reduction, while critics have argued that the White House has remained largely absent from the discussion. Obama unveiled his own budget in February, which was decried among budget hawks as an unserious proposal to get the nation’s fiscal house in order.
House Republican leaders will release their own budget in the next few months, and House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan has vowed that it will address the nation’s ballooning entitlement programs, which account for most of the federal government’s expenses.
Congress failed to pass a budget last year, so the government has been running on a series of stopgap resolutions. House Republicans last month passed their own proposal for a final resolution to the government through this fiscal year, which included $61 billion in cuts. The Senate has yet to pass their own resolution, but leaders on both sides say they are negotiating a deal between the chambers and the White House. The short-term deal will likely set the stage for a larger debate over next year’s budget.