Entries in Kent Conrad (11)


Senate Budget Chair Defends Kicking the Can Down the Road

Douglas Graham/Roll Call/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) has a plan for solving the nation’s debt crisis but doesn’t expect anything to get done before the fall election.

“I think Senator [Harry] Reid has made the judgment, quite correctly, that there is very little chance that we’re going to get the two sides together before the election,” Conrad said on “Fox News Sunday” of the Senate majority leader.

Conrad believes the only way Congress can significantly reduce the deficit is through a bipartisan deal.

“We’ve got to have a long-term plan,” he said. “The only way you’re going to have a long term plan that’s sustainable is that we get Democrats and Republicans to agree.”

Conrad joined the Senate in 1992 and is a staunch advocate for deficit reduction. The national debt has surpassed $15 trillion and is well on its way to $16 trillion.

Republicans blame Obama and Democrats for the debt increase while some economists attribute the jump to loss of revenue resulting from the recent economic downturn.  Fiscal conservatives are worried that the interest on the debt will grow so large that the government will have to cut services to pay down the interest.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has warned Congress of the danger and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-Wis.) has described it as the most predictable crisis.

Conrad said, “What we need, I believe, is at least a 10-year plan. That’s why I’m going to mark up the first week that we’re back in session.”

Republicans have characterized such an approach as cowardly.  Sen. Rob Johnson, (R-Wis.) attacked Conrad’s approach while on “Fox News Sunday” with the senator.

“So you got 23 Democratic Senate seats up. Sixteen of those Democratic senators are running for re-election,” Johnson said. “They don’t want their fingerprints on a plan.”

But Conrad believes that Congress will have no choice but to act after the election.

“After the election, when we’re faced with all tax cuts expiring and we’re faced with a sequester, that would be the time that people have more open minds,” Conrad said.

The Budget Control Act (also known as the “Super Committee”) mandates deep-reaching defense and health care cuts by 2013.  Obama will also have a chance to negotiate for the repeal of the Bush tax cuts, which are also set to expire in 2013 because of a deal Obama cut at the end of 2010.

Obama will likely break a campaign pledge to cut the deficit by half in his first term.  White House Chief of Staff Jacob Lew argues that the administration couldn’t have anticipated the scope of the nation’s economic woes that have led to higher-than-expected spending.

Conrad has announced that he will not be seeking re-election this year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


GOP Senator Says Payroll Tax Cut Extension Will Pass

Steve Cole/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite disagreement in Congress over how to pay for extending payroll tax cuts, a Senate Republican said on Sunday that he expects the extension sought by President Obama to pass before they expire for most Americans at the end of the month.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told Fox News Sunday that “probably” both the tax cuts and an extension of unemployment benefits will go through.

“The question the American people ought to ask is where is the backbone in Washington to actually pay for these extensions in the year the money’s spent,” he said.

Democrats have not proposed a realistic way to pay for the payroll tax cuts, said Coburn, who opposes an increase in taxes to pay for it.

“Whether or not we continue a reduction in the amount of taxes that come to Social Security, that’s one thing, paying for it -- we have so much waste in Washington to take 10 years to pay for it is ridiculous,” he said.

On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will propose a compromise plan to extend the payroll tax.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., also appearing on Fox News Sunday, said Reid called him about it Saturday night.

“It’ll be paid for.  It will be paid for in a way that’s credible and serious.  It will represent a compromise from what was voted on last week.  It’s a serious attempt to move this ball forward,” Conrad said.

Conrad said extending the payroll tax cuts is necessary to keep the economic recovery moving.

If the payroll tax cut is not extended, middle-class families will see their taxes go up by $1,000, President Obama said in his weekly address.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Reid Begins Process to Move His Bill to the Floor, But Does Not File Cloture

Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not file cloture, as expected, on his debt plan Monday night on the Senate floor, which means that there will not be a midweek vote on his proposal.

Instead, Reid used a procedural move called “filling the tree” which blocks Republicans from offering amendments to his plan.  It is in essence a procedural lock which sets up a vote later in the week, without a specific deadline. It may have been used to force Speaker of the House John Boehner’s plan to be voted on in the House first.

“We have put into process our efforts, sound legislation to end the budget crisis we’re in. It in effect does everything the Republicans have asked,” Reid said on the Senate floor Monday evening. “Virtually everything we have in there has been suggested by the Republicans. And now they need to take yes for an answer. Give a yes.”

On Monday evening Reid convened with the Democratic caucus, in which he briefed his fellow Democrats about his plan. Leaving the meeting Monday night, Senate Democrats appeared to be trying to show a united front in support of Reid’s plan.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that the Reid plan was received “extremely well” by the caucus.

"The Reid plan is a realistic way forward," Conrad said. "And you know there's obviously got to be at some point further agreement."

“We’re going to pass ours,” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said. "That’s our goal....there’s a feeling now that we have to stand together.”

Can it get 60 votes to pass, though? “Well it depends on the Republicans,” Durbin said. “It still comes down to that.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gang of Six Meets to Discuss the Next Steps

Senator Kent Conrad. US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- The Gang of Six, plus two self-professed “cheerleaders,” huddled late Tuesday afternoon behind closed doors after their plan had some time to breathe on Capitol Hill, in an attempt to figure what the next step is as the clock ticks closer to Aug. 2.

The next step: members of the Senate will be asked to sign a letter supporting the “basic direction” of the Gang of Six’s plan.  There will be another meeting Wednesday with the group to discuss how the plan may be advanced.

Members of the Gang of Six did not immediately shoot down the idea that their plan could be attached in some way to the plan being worked on by McConnell and Reid.

“It is possible,” Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said after leaving the meeting. “One possibility that is being discussed is that this special congressional committee would have this as a fallback or maybe the basis of their discussions.”

At the same time, they are trying to draft the plan legislatively so it can be considered.

Conrad admitted that they know the time frame is working against them. “That’s a problem. As you know scoring of these things can take an extended period. I know CBO told the Democratic Leader that just the mandatory spending piece from the White House talks could take as long as two weeks to score. So all of these issues are being discussed and considered.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Senate on 'Standby,' Senators Express Frustration About Uncertainty of Recess

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-ND, said Wednesday that he will unveil the Democratic budget plan to address the debt and deficit over a 10-year period next week and that he hopes that will “stimulate” the negotiations over the debt ceiling underway in Congress.

Conrad admitted to reporters that the “chances are pretty good” that the Senate will be in session next week, cancelling the 4th of July recess.

Aides to the senator say that he will first brief his colleagues on the plan, and then will reveal the details. This could be pushed back if the Senate is indeed on break next week.

“We want to have a chance to do this, a comprehensive package -- which it is. And this is an old plan to deal with the deficits and the debt,” Conrad told reporters in the halls of the Capitol. “It certainly has borrowed heavily from things in the fiscal commission but it is not identical to that -- has significant differences from that. But it is even larger in terms of deficit reduction.”

Coburn would not make any details -- or dollar figures -- known, but said that the details will come and hopefully, he said, will help the debt ceiling discussion.

“Hopefully it will help stimulate this discussion and negotiation that’s going on,” Conrad said.

After the special meeting of Senate Democrats Wednesday afternoon called by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV., there was mass confusion among the senators themselves whether the Senate would be in session next week or out of session next week, on the regularly scheduled July 4t recess. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office says there is “no word” at this point. Many Senate Republicans have called for the Senate to remain in session and work on the debt ceiling negotiations.

The confusion was rampant between senators leaving the Hill Wednesday evening after the Senate adjourned until Thursday shortly after 8 p.m.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Budget Deficit: Senator Warns US on the Edge if 'Gang of Six' Fails

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) warns that mounting federal deficits has put the United States "on the precipice of very serious consequences," raising the stakes for bipartisan talks aimed at getting the federal budget back in balance.

In an interview with ABC News, Conrad spoke in stark terms about his personal stake as a member of the so-called Gang of Six -- the bipartisan group of Senators trying to come to an agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit.

"I certainly hope this leads to a result because otherwise I'm going to have wasted five years of my life," Conrad said.

The Gang of Six has been secretly attempting to negotiate a deal to reduce the deficit with a mix of spending cuts to popular programs like Medicare and increased tax revenue.

Agreement is incredibly difficult because most Democrats do not want to consider cuts to programs like Medicare and most Republicans are unwilling to consider increasing tax revenues.  A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed Americans broadly reject cuts to the Medicare system and support higher taxes on the wealthy, rejecting two central tenets of the Republican debt-reduction plan.

"My hopes are for the country's sake that we do [find a solution to] this because it's critically important," Conrad said.  "When you're borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that you spend, when revenue is the lowest that it's been in 60 years as a share of our national income, spending is the highest it's been in 60 years.  You are on the precipice of very serious consequences if we don't.  If it doesn't happen this year, it won't happen next year.  So it's really got to happen now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Debt Looms Large on Senators' Minds

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. and Kent Conrad, D-N.D. told ABC News they want to hear President Obama talk about solving the nation's growing debt problem when he speaks to the nation on Tuesday in his State of the Union address.

Lieberman said he wants Obama's speech to "deal with the biggest long-term threat to America's strength and our economy and that is the debt.  And I hope the President will really be hands on and say he's willing to take political risks if we are, to get America's books back in balance for the sake of our children and grandchildren."

Sen. Conrad explained why the country's debt is so difficult to address.

"The American people say: don't touch Social Security, don't touch Medicare, don't cut defense.  That's 84 percent of the federal budget.  If you can't touch 84 percent of the federal budget -- and, by the way, they also don't want to touch revenue.  You're down to 16 percent of the budget, at a time where we're borrowing forty cents of every dollar they spend," Conrad said.

"There needs to be leadership to help the American people understand how serious this problem is and that it's going to take a lot more than cutting foreign aid and taxing the rich," Conrad explained.  "You're not going to solve the issue that way."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, on the other hand, told ABC News that she was less concerned with the content of Obama's speech and more concerned with his follow-through on helping businesses.

"Will he really get his regulatory commissions to cut back on the regulations that are hurting the growth of business?  Will he agree to some changes in the Obamacare which is keeping people from hiring?  I can tell you, I'm all over my state.  That's what I hear," Hutchison said.  "They're not going to hire people if they are looking at these big fines and big expenses in the health care bill."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Analysts: Rapidly Changing Senate Landscape Favors GOP in 2012

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The 112th Congress isn't even three weeks old yet, but already the focus is turning to the 2012 elections as a slew of key senators announce their plans.

A source told ABC News Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, who caucuses with the Democrats, will announce Wednesday afternoon that he will retire.  On Tuesday, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said he will retire, the first Senate Democrat to decide not to run for re-election, but surely not the last.  Meanwhile, on the Republican side Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas said last week that she will leave, but Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana has said he will seek re-election.

It all makes for a rapidly changing 2012 landscape with control of the Senate up for grabs.

In the aftermath of Conrad's announcement, Republicans sounded even more confident that they can wrestle the Senate from Democratic hands 22 months from now.  Just last fall, Republican John Hoeven easily won North Dakota's other Senate seat which had been held by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who also chose to retire.

"With yet a second member of the Senate Democrat caucus preparing for retirement within a 24 hour period, all of us are left to wonder how many more Democrats may follow in their footsteps," said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh.

In all, a whopping 23 Senate seats currently held by Democrats will be decided by voters in two years.  By contrast, only 10 Republican seats are in play.  After the midterm "shellacking" that saw the GOP win control of the House of Representatives, Senate Democrats appear to have cause for concern.

The Democrats' majority in the upper chamber of Congress has already shrunk from 59 seats to 53, including two independents: Lieberman and Vermont's Bernie Sanders.  That means the GOP only needs to win four seats to wrest control of the Senate.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Lieberman, Conrad Retiring. Who's Next?

Photo Courtesy - Lieberman dot Senate dot gov(WASHINGTON) -- Senator Joe Lieberman called Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday to tell him he is not running for re-election in 2012. That's actually good news for Democrats. Although the independent Lieberman is a member of the Democratic caucus, his decision to retire makes it easier for Democrats to hang on to his Connecticut Senate seat.

If Lieberman had run, he would have almost certainly run as an independent. That would have meant a three-way race, giving Republicans their best -- and perhaps only -- shot at winning the seat in a state President Obama won in a 22-point landslide in 2008. Now Connecticut Democrats will have a chance to unite behind a single candidate.

The day's other retirement, however, is terrible news for Democrats. Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., would have faced a tough re-election campaign, but he would have been, by far, the best chance for Democrats to hang on to the seat. North Dakota is a solidly Republican state that went for John McCain in 2008 and last year elected Republican John Hoeven to the Senate with 76 percent of the vote.

A Lieberman aide says that the Senator will formally announce his decision on Wednesday by quoting the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes: "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


North Dakota Democrat Kent Conrad to Retire from Senate

Photo Courtesy - Conrad [dot] Senate [dot] gov(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota announced Tuesday that he plans to retire, a move that looks set to further complicate Democrats’ chances of retaining control of the Senate in 2012.

Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, hails from a state that has been leaning red in recent years.  Last fall, Republican John Hoeven won the state’s other Senate seat that had been held by Democrat Byron Dorgan, who also chose to retire.

“After months of consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2012,” Conrad said in a letter to supporters Tuesday.  “There are serious challenges facing our State and nation, like a $14 trillion debt and America's dependence on foreign oil.  It is more important I spend my time and energy trying to solve these problems than to be distracted by a campaign for reelection.”

Conrad said he intends to spend his remaining two years in office focusing on getting the country “on a sound fiscal course” and reducing the country’s dependence on foreign energy, among other issues.

“Although I will not seek reelection, the work is not done,” said Conrad, who has held the North Dakota Senate seat for the last 24 years.  “I will continue to do my level best for both North Dakota and the nation over the final two years of my term.”

Conrad is the first Senate Democrat to decide not to run for re-election. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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