WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tax increases and spending cuts will both be needed to spread the burden of bringing down U.S. budget deficits to a sustainable level, House of Representatives Democratic leader Steny Hoyer said Monday.
Hoyer’s remarks frame a debate that is likely to pick up urgency as a bipartisan panel created by President Barack Obama considers ways to balance the budget.
“It seems to me that the only solution that can win the support of both parties is a balanced approach: one that cuts some spending and raises some revenue while avoiding extremes in either direction,” Hoyer said in remarks prepared for delivery later in the day.
“A balanced approach would spread the effects of change across American society,” Hoyer said.
Republicans have said that tax increases should be off the table, while many Democrats have resisted cuts to expensive but popular entitlement programs.
Hopefully, voters will support those who back a plan that causes short-term pain to head off fiscal catastrophe, Hoyer said.
“I think that the public’s rising awareness at the crisis of debt that confronts us will be somewhat, not entirely, somewhat an enabler of making tough decisions,” Hoyer told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The U.S. budget deficit stands at its highest level relative to the economy since World War Two, largely because of a deep recession, two wars and tax cuts.
Deficits are projected to remain stubbornly high even after the economy recovers, as an aging population drives up the government’s retirement and healthcare costs.
Obama’s panel is scheduled to deliver its proposed fix in December, but congressional leaders first need to appoint members.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will likely name members who reflect Democratic diversity, Hoyer said.
“We’re very desirous to making sure there’s balance in terms of minority representation and gender representation, so that those perspectives will be heard,” Hoyer told Reuters.
That would differ from the approach taken by Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, who opted for three white men who hold senior positions: Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, and the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin.
Hoyer said he will not serve on the panel himself.
Republicans in the House and Senate have not yet appointed their members.
Pelosi and Reid have pledged to bring the panel’s recommendations up for a vote, but many lawmakers could be reluctant to sign off on what is expected to be tough medicine.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham