(St. Cloud Times)
BY MARK SOMMERHAUSER
Congress must move past its reluctance to consider a politically charged plan to reduce the federal deficit, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, DFL-Minn., said Friday.
Reducing the deficit and overhauling the federal regulatory code would speed the economic recovery, Klobuchar said in an interview with the Times Editorial Board. A focus on jobs also would help ensure Democrats’ electoral success in 2012, she added.
Klobuchar said President Obama also is prioritizing those initiatives, if belatedly.
Obama’s push to pass the 2010 health care package — which Klobuchar voted for — may have sidetracked his administration’s focus on job creation, Klobuchar suggested.
“That really derailed the economic agenda,” Klobuchar said. “There needed to be a shift toward what really mattered, and that’s expanding private-sector jobs.”
In calling for deficit reduction, Klobuchar was referring to a report by the co-chairs of a fiscal commission appointed by Obama: President Clinton’s former chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyo.
Klobuchar called the Bowles-Simpson report imperfect but praised its recommendations to cap spending and reform the tax code. Adoption of the spending caps could be tied to an upcoming vote on whether to increase the federal debt ceiling, Klobuchar suggested.
The 18-member fiscal commission initially failed to muster the votes to advance the Bowles-Simpson report, and members of both parties have balked at its recommendations.
But many senators are ready to make tough fiscal decisions, Klobuchar said after the Editorial Board interview.
“There is an appetite,” Klobuchar said, “because people have started to see what happened in Ireland and Greece and other countries that just let it go.”
Some of the report’s most controversial recommendations involve Social Security; they call for increasing the retirement age, means testing, increasing the payroll tax cap on taxable income and other reforms.
Klobuchar said some of those recommendations are valid but should be examined as part of a process separate from the report’s other recommendations.
In calling for regulatory reform, Klobuchar hailed a recent initiative by the Food and Drug Administration to speed approval of new medical devices, which she said will benefit Minnesota’s medical device industry. Businesses in that industry have begun expanding in Europe because permitting happens more quickly there, Klobuchar said.
Before announcement of the FDA initiative, Klobuchar said the agency had been rightly focused on ensuring the safety of new medical devices.
But its permitting process “got bogged down,” Klobuchar added.