Some Senators Want to Bring Back Bowles-Simpson to End the Shutdown Crisis

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 8 2013 3:52 PM

Some Senators Want to Bring Back Bowles-Simpson to End the Shutdown Crisis

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Lindsey Graham sees a role for Gitmo in the shutdown negotiations.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The talk in Congress today, about a possible way out of the funding showdown, was about committees. Not supercommittees! No, people want to forget about that experience. Just some sort of deal that funds the government long enough to restart the normal negotiation process, and conferences. This latest mirage got a couple of the Senate's moderates talking about the great panaceas of yore.

West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, for example, told reporters that he hoped something "like Simpson-Bowles" might re-emerge. "I'm hoping we get a big package that fixes our long-term debt," he said. "Look at spending, look at revenue, look at reform. Look at what Tom Coburn showed the other day, on abuses of Social Security disability. ... If we can get a tax system that's more fair and equitable, and we spin off more revenue from that, this is a win-win situation."

Montana Sen. Max Baucus, the Finance Committee chairman who's retiring this year and really wants tax reform to be his legacy, didn't really play ball on this. "Fund the government first," he said, as reporters asked him about a possible deal to get to a wonderful reform-minded conference room.

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But the fantasy was attractive to others. "My own proposal is take the supercommittee, the Gang of Six, Simpson-Bowles, and the president's own budget, and cobble together an agreement on structural changes to get us out of debt," said Sen. Lindsey Graham. "There's a lot of documents. All of this has been vetted."

This doesn't feel like 2011, when both sides in Congress—and the White House, and outside groups—spent months talking about a deal. This feels slapdash, reactive to how the White House won't negotiate until Republicans drop Obamacare. "They think they're winning, and obviously some people on our side feel like we're winning," said Graham. "If this is winning, I'd hate to be losing. ... Show me a way this ends without Boehner and Obama talking. I don't know how this ends. Maybe we put 'em both in Gitmo."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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