SOMERSET — Kentucky's senior member of Congress voted for the plan to cut $900 billion in federal spending over 10 years, but he would have preferred another measure that also included closing corporate tax loopholes to raise revenue.
That so-called "grand bargain" would have reduced the nation's red ink while bringing in an additional $800 billion that could have been used to cut tax rates for working people and small businesses, leading to job creation, said U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers.
"I thought it was a deficit-reducing, economy-boosting proposal," Rogers, a Republican who represents the 5th District, said during an interview with the Herald-Leader on Wednesday.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, pitched the deal as Congress and the White House grappled with raising the nation's debt limit before an economically crippling default Aug. 2.
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Rogers, chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, said he and staff members helped analyze numbers and proposals during the contentious debt-ceiling debate.
House Republicans adamantly opposed tax increases as part of any debt-limit deal.
Some would have opposed closing tax loopholes as well, but Rogers said he thought most House members would have backed the deal.
However, the proposal fell through after President Obama sought $400 billion in tax increases as part of the plan, Rogers said.
The deal the House and Senate finally approved included no tax increases or new revenue.
Rogers said he hopes a new committee charged with finding at least an additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will take another look at closing tax loopholes, but he also said would not favor increasing tax rates.
"The problem we have is not a lack of taxes. The problem we have is too much spending," Roger said.
He said Social Security should be off the table when the committee looks at how to reduce spending.
However, he said entitlements will have to be reformed as part of further efforts to reduce the federal deficit.
There isn't much more discretionary spending lawmakers can cut and keep the government functioning to the public's satisfaction, Rogers said.
There might be possible adjustments to Medicaid and Medicare that would save money without hurting people, Rogers said.
It's not clear how the $900 billion in spending cuts approved as part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling will actually be put in place.
The effect probably will vary by congressional district, Rogers said.
His district in the southern and eastern parts of the state has a relatively large number of poor people and an aging population. Government spending has been a key part of the region's economy.
There is concern in the area about potential cutbacks, which could have a greater effect in the district than perhaps any other in the nation, Rogers said.
However, one good thing that came from the debt-limit debate was a much greater public understanding of the sacrifices it will take to get the country out of the red, he said.
"My people are willing to do their part, as long as it's a fair, even-handed sacrifice that everybody else is going through," he said.