Tea Party Debt Commission hearing today, 1 pm Central (UPDATE: Report released; hearing forced out of the Capitol!)

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See the update below about what happened shortly before the hearing was to begin.

As the 12-member congressional debt commission flounders in its task to reduce the deficit by a trillion dollars, the Tea Party Debt Commission, a crowd-sourced, online initiative organized by FreedomWorks and Contract from America, has identified trillions in cuts. The results will be announced at a special hearing, broadcast on C-SPAN-3 and C-SPAN.org today, November 17, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. Tulsa time.

The hearing will be led by Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (OH-4), Senator Mike Lee (UT), Senator Rand Paul (KY), Congressman Jeff Flake (AZ-6), Congressman Paul Broun (GA-10), Congressman Joe Walsh (IL-8), Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26) and Congressman Steve King (IA-5). Twelve Tea Party Debt Commissioners will testify, followed by Q&A from House and Senate members.

The New York Times covered the launch of the Tea Party Debt Commission back in June, outlining its goals and structure:

"If you look if you look at the landscape in Washington, D.C., there's a lot of Democrats who control two-thirds of the process who are now sitting on their hands, waiting to point fingers at Republicans who propose something, and there's too many Republicans who are afraid that the public won't understand a serious proposal to solve the budget deficit," said Matt Kibbe, [FreedomWorks] president.

"We think, like with the first days of the Tea Party movement, that the only way we will ever reduce the debt and balance the budget is if America beats Washington and Tea Party activists take over this process, take over the public debate and engage the American people in the hard work of making tough choices."...

The activists, along with FreedomWorks staff, came up with parameters for their budget proposals, declaring that they would have to balance the federal budget within 10 years, reduce federal spending to 18 percent of the gross domestic product, reduce the national debt to no more than 66 percent of the G.D.P., assume that revenue accounts for no more than 19 percent of the G.D.P., reduce federal spending by at least $300 billion in the first year and reduce federal spending by at least $9 trillion over 10 years.

UPDATE: Shortly before the Tea Party Debt Commission hearing was to begin, Senate staffers kicked them out. FreedomWorks New Media Director Tabitha Hale tells the story:

It has been 932 days since the Democrats have passed a budget. With the formation of the Super Committee, we saw an opportunity for Americans to tell Congress what they would be willing to cut, and offer suggestions to make the budgeting process easier for them. The Senate Rules Committee, headed up by Chuck Schumer, told us they were uncomfortable with the word "hearing", and locked the doors and took away our microphones minutes before the event was scheduled to start.

So basically, they have nearly three years to put a budget forth and fail. We finally act, they kick us out. Senator Mike Lee's office took the lead and quickly found a new location at Hillsdale College's Kirby Center, where the hearing took place not too far behind schedule.

We will be heard, Washington.

More from the New York Times:

But the Capitol police shut down the room where they planned to meet, after a suspicious package was found in the office of Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama.

Tea Party activists who arrived at Hearing Room 325 in the Russell building at 2 p.m. discovered Capitol police there, removing microphones and locking the room.

Evicted from the Russell Building, they saw suspicious motives - big government strikes again! -- and issued another press release declaring the shutdown "outrageous."

"They're kicking us out of our own building because they're afraid we are going to do something crazy, like balance the budget," said Matt Kibbe, FreedomWorks president.

Capitol Police claimed that the removal was for security reasons, but why would you take the time to remove microphones from a hearing room if there was a suspicious package in the office next door? Wouldn't you clear the building? Utah Sen. Mike Lee thinks so:

"The Rules Committee was threatening to shut us down," he said in an interview. If there was a threat, he said, the building should have been evacuated. And he disputed the Senate rule. As a senator, he said, he can call a meeting with an outside group in a Senate office building. "Is the First Amendment so weak that someone calls it a 'hearing' and so we can't have it?" he said.

The Tea Party Debt Commission report has been released; click that link to read it online. Key features:

  • "Cuts, caps, and balances" federal spending.
  • Balances the budget in four years, and keeps it balanced, without tax hikes.
  • Closes an historically large budget gap, equal to almost one-tenth of our economy.
  • Reduces federal spending by $9.7 trillion over the next 10 years, as opposed to the President's plan to increase spending by $2.3 trillion.
  • Shrinks the federal government from 24 percent of GDP -- a level exceeded only in World War II-- to about 16 percent, in line with the postwar norm.
  • Stops the growth of the debt, and begins paying it down, with a goal of eliminating it within this generation.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 17, 2011 9:59 AM.

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