Back in December 2010, when President Obama's fiscal commission released its final proposal, the report was criticized by both Republicans and Democrats, and Obama himself rejected the recommendations. Now, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has given the the proposal new life by introducing it as the Senate Democrats' budget plan.
This doesn't mean it's actually going to be embraced by most Democrats in the Senate and it may not even come up for a vote. The Senate has not passed a budget since 2009 and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to pass one this year, saying it is unnecessary because spending levels were set by last year's deal to raise the debt ceiling. Conrad himself is sympathetic with Reid's argument.
“To be clear, we already have a budget in place for this year and next," Conrad said in a statement. "The Budget Control Act passed last summer provided the spending limits and enforcement measures for the budget for 2012 and 2013. It is the law of the land. What we do not have is agreement on a long-term budget plan. That is what we must now work to achieve."
The Simpson-Bowles plan would reduce deficits mainly by cutting defense spending and raising taxes while tweaking other aspects of the budget. To its credit, the proposal does attempt to simplify the tax code by getting rid of loopholes, broadening the tax base and reducing rates. But the result would be a massive tax increase.
Overall, the plan would spend $44 trillion from 2013 through 2022, according to an accompanying table, which is $4 trillion more than Rep. Paul Ryan's budget that was passed by the Republican controlled House and $1.4 trillion less than Obama's budget. It would raise $39.6 trillion in tax revenue over that same time period, which is $2.6 trillion more than Ryan and $600 billion more than Obama.
The release of this budget could put Obama in a difficult spot. Earlier this month, Obama praised the Bowles-Simpson plan as "a serious, honest, balanced effort between Democrats and Republicans to bring down the deficit," while saying he disagreed with the specifics. The reintroduction of the plan will once again put him in the position of having to reject it, even though he has no plan to address the nation's long-term debt problem.