Despite some skepticism nationally, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy said Monday he thinks there is a 95 percent chance Congress will pass a new plan to trim the nation’s deficit.
Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, made his comments during a 45-minute forum sponsored in part by the Louisiana Association of Business Industry, a business advocacy group.
Earlier this month Congress approved, with Cassidy’s support, a debt and deficit agreement that raised the U.S. debt limit by $2.1 trillion and cut federal spending by at least $2.1 trillion over a decade.
The measure also set up a 12-member U.S. House-Senate committee that would be charged with producing up to $1.5 trillion in additional deficit cuts over a decade.
Some politicians and others have predicted that, as on other key issues, panel members will be unable to strike an accord amid partisan bickering in Congress.
But Cassidy said that, because of the alternative, he thinks there is a 99 percent chance the 12-member committee will reach agreement.
“I think they will be successful, and I think if they are successful that it will pass,” he told the group.
The key motivator, Cassidy said, is a provision in the law that says if no agreement is reached spending cuts would take effect across much of the federal budget, including defense spending, domestic agencies and farm subsidies.
He said those reductions would pain liberals and conservatives alike.
“There is a haircut across everything,” the Republican said.
LABI President Dan Juneau compared the nation’s financial predicament to a family with $21,700 per year of income and spending of $38,200, which produces an annual debt of $16,500.
“Families, as you know, can’t get away with living like that,” Juneau said.
On other issues, Cassidy said entitlements are driving much of the nation’s debt, including Medicare and Social Security.
He said that, when Medicare was enacted in 1965, the nation had 4.9 workers for each Medicare beneficiary compared to 1.9 workers per beneficiary today.
“If we don’t address that, our country will go bankrupt,” Cassidy said.
Meanwhile, Cassidy said linking Social Security payments to revised and more realistic life expectancy charts would delay benefits and mean workers would contribute longer.
He noted that, when the program was started, the average life expectancy was about 62 years.
Cassidy called joblessness the nation’s top issue and criticized tax hike proposals as a way out of economic problems.
“Tell me why we should add more taxes,” he asked rhetorically.
Cassidy said it is not enough to merely oppose and criticize the nation’s financial policies.
“We, who are conservatives, must have an answer,” he said.
The gathering was sponsored by LABI and the National Association of Manufacturers as a way to hear about “the serious issues for business at play in Washington.”
Similar sessions are set for Tuesday in Mandeville with U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, and on Wednesday in Lafayette with U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette.