Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin blasts the GOP for its intransigence on a deficit reduction plan

Posted By on Wed, Oct 17, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Michigan Senator Carl Levin & Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor at MacDill Park on the Riverwalk
  • Michigan Sen. Carl Levin and Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor at MacDill Park on the Riverwalk
The Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin said it's up to Republicans to compromise when negotiating a deficit reduction plan during the lame-duck session of Congress, which could begin shortly after next month's general election.

"They would rather protect the wealthiest among us than protect defense. That's what it comes down to," he said during a campaign stop in downtown Tampa on Wednesday.

Levin was in town to promote President Obama's commitment to veterans. According to Congresswoman Kathy Castor, who joined the Michigan senator, tens of thousands of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts reside in the Tampa Bay area .

Levin spoke about how Congress will avoid sequestration, the $1.2 billion automatic budget cuts divided between domestic and defense spending that could take effect unless Democrats and Republicans come to a deal by the end of the year.

Sequestration was created by Congress (and not just the president, which is what Republicans like Paul Ryan have alleged) in the summer of 2011 as a backstop if negotiations on how to reduce the deficit fell astray.

The 78-year-old Michigan Democrat reacted with disgust when recounting the budget difficulties between the two parties. First elected in 1978, he reminisced about how Republican presidents like Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush both raised revenue (i.e., taxes) to balance the budget, as did Bill Clinton in 1993, which led to the country going into a budget surplus a few years later.

Citing Grover Norquist's infamous conservative tax pledge, as well as when all of the GOP presidential candidates at a debate last year (including Mitt Romney) said they would not raise $1 in revenues for $10 in taxes, Levin lashed out at the Republican Party's Tea Party element.

"You need some additional revenues, folks. You also need some targeted spending cuts and some reforms in entitlements, but they have said 'no' to any additional revenues, including one that most Republicans favor, which is increasing that tax rate back to what it was on upper income folks," said Levin, referring to the top tax rate of 39.6 percent that was reduced by the Bush tax cuts of a decade ago.

Levin and Castor also mentioned the post-9/11 GI Bill, which President Obama enacted in 2009 and made available to anyone who has served in the military since Sept. 11, 2001.

"Here in Florida we have over 42,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan who have benefited from the GI Bill, " Castor said. "Think about what that has meant for jobs in the Tampa Bay area because we have so many of those veterans at the University of South Florida, at the University of Tampa, Hillsborough Community College, and St. Petersburg College and all across the state."

The new GI bill covers $17,500 worth of annual tuition for private schools and full tuition for public schools; the VA sends the checks directly to the schools. Students can enroll for up to four years. GI Bill students can combine their military benefits with other forms of financial aid, like scholarships and loans.

With just 20 days to go before the election, both campaigns continue to send key surrogates to the Tampa Bay area to try to win the most influential regions in the state. The Obama campaign announced earlier today that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will appear in Tampa this Saturday.

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