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Kent Conrad is leading an effort to force Nancy Pelosi to cede the power of Congress over budget and taxes to an independent commission that will be allowed to slash and potentially partially privatize Social Security and Medicare. He's joined by an unsurprising bipartisan "gang" of Evan Bayh, Diane Feinstein, Joe Lieberman, and Mark Warner.

Senators from both parties on Tuesday put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn the power to trim entitlement benefits over to an independent commission.

Seven members of the Senate Budget Committee threatened during a Tuesday hearing to withhold their support for critical legislation to raise the debt ceiling if the bill calling for the creation of a bipartisan fiscal reform commission were not attached. Six others had previously made such threats, bringing the total to 13 senators drawing a hard line on the committee legislation.

“You rarely do have the leverage to make a fundamental change,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who said he hasn’t ruled out offering the independent commission legislation as an amendment to the healthcare reform bill.
....

Among [the panels] chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The Government Accountability Office recently reported the gap is on pace to reach an “unsustainable” $63 trillion in 2083.

The panel would also have the power to craft legislation that would change the tax code and set limits on government spending.

Isn't crafting legislation on the tax code and government spending what we have a Congress for? Apparently not in the minds of these five intellectual powerhouses, who Chris Bowers says have formed a national suicide pact by vowing to vote against a must-pass bill to raise the debt ceiling if Pelosi doesn't cede to their wishes. As Chris says, Pelosi has no choice but to call their bluff:

Let's see these five Democratic Senators explain to the entire nation why they allowed the country to default on its debt.  No matter how safe their seats appear to be, no Senator is going to win reelection after making the entire country default on its debt   Their rationale does not matter.  Being blamed for making the country default on its debt-especially after all five of these Democrats voted in favor of the Wall Street bailout and are demanding that Social Security and Medicare be cut-will be the effective end of their political careers.

Go for it, guys.  Form your national suicide pact.  Tell the country that you are demanding deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare, or else you will personally cause the United States debt to double.  Let's see how well that message plays on the air.

But if she does, Kent Conrad adds one more poison pill to healthcare reform. Here, you can provide healthcare coverage to millions of people, but only if it doesn't hurt the insurance and hospital and medical device industries, and only if we jeopardize the security of senior citizens by making deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

All so that the Blue Dogs and the ConservaDems can keep their precious seats in Congress by turning over the really hard decision making on how this government functions to someone else. This would take the heat off of them on critical budget votes. Again, we elect members of Congress to make these difficult decisions for the country, not to delegate them to some unaccountable group of people that we can't vote out of office. It's discouraging that there are actually Democrats who would be as cavalier as Republicans have proven to be about governing this country.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Nov 12, 2009 at 10:30 AM PST.

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