Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Oct. 9 outlined a broad plan that he said could pave the way to a grand fiscal bargain, expanding on a position that Senate Democrats have been building for months.
To strike a deal to avert billions of dollars of year-end spending cuts and expiring tax cuts, Schumer said, Democrats and Republicans must abandon the reform model established during the last major tax overhaul in 1986 under President Reagan. "In the face of today's yawning deficits, that framework is past its prime."
Schumer says that the plan he proposed on Oct. 9 is his own, though he has shared it with members of his party, including the president, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), and members of the "Gang of Eight," a bipartisan group seeking to hammer out a compromise. Still, the Schumer plan represents an extension of a case that Senate Democrats have been building for months.
First and foremost, they have established an ever-hardening resistance to extending the higher-income tax cuts established under President George W. Bush. Second, Democrats have argued that they are instead open to "serious" entitlement reform. Third, Schumer and his colleagues have pushed the idea that Congress will be able to make major progress toward a deal — if not strike a full deal — during the lame-duck session in November and December.
"I absolutely believe that a deal can be had before January 1," Schumer said. Last month, Reid said he was "confident" that a deal would be struck in the lame duck.
But, while Senate Democrats have been setting expectations for a deal, some House Republicans have been doing the opposite.
"You know ... frankly, I'm not sure it's the right thing to do — have a lot of retiring members and defeated members voting on really big bills," House Speaker John Boehner told Politico last week. "Probably not the appropriate way to handle the lame duck."
While Schumer's proposal is a departure from the plans offered up by the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission and the Gang of Eight, he argues that it's not a replacement, but a supplement.
"If you will, it's a suggestion that I hope will help break the deadlock, that will help … the Gang of Eight, move forward," he said.