Thursday, March 5, 2015

MD-Sen Candidate Chris Van Hollen Was a Simpson Bowles Supporter

With Senator Barbara Mikulski retiring, there will be a scramble among Maryland Democrats to run for her seat. The first to declare was Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-08). Maryland's 8th district used to be rooted in Montgomery County, but after Democrats gerrymandered the state, it now stretches all the way to the border with Pennsylvania.

Chris Van Hollen is good on a number of issues. I'd credit him especially for his work on climate. He is Co-Chair of the Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change and a member of the Safe Climate Caucus and the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, and he's introduced a cap-and-dividend bill supported by the Sierra Club this congressional session and last.

However, there is one part of Van Hollen's record that raises a major red flag for me.
Here he is in October 2012 speaking positively of the Simpson-Bowles plan:
Representative Chris Van Hollen, the House Budget Committee’s top Democrat, predicted the proposal by President Barack Obama’s 2010 deficit panel will be the “framework” for averting the so-called fiscal cliff of spending cuts in January. The deficit-cutting plan was offered by commission co-chairmen Al Simpson, a Republican former Wyoming senator, and Erskine Bowles, a Democratic former White House chief of staff. It called for $3.8 trillion in spending cuts and $1 trillion in more tax revenue by 2020 through rate increases or eliminating deductions. The commission recommended cuts in Medicare and Social Security benefits.
“We’re going to see the framework of Simpson-Bowles” in a deal to avert $109.3 billion in automatic federal spending cuts in January, Van Hollen said on Bloomberg Television’s “Capitol Gains,” airing this weekend.
And here he is the following month expressing his openness to "changing" (i.e., cutting) Social Security and raising the Medicare eligibility age.
On Capitol Hill, it isn’t clear how strenuously Democrats will resist cutting entitlements. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said he and others were open to changes as long as they were done in a measured way and were part of deal that included tax increases. Mr. Van Hollen also said changing Social Security and increasing the Medicare eligibility age above 65 should be part of negotiations.

“I’m willing to consider all of these ideas as part of an overall plan,” Mr. Van Hollen said Tuesday at the Journal’s CEO Council.
Here he is the following May talking up a "grand bargain":
Despite drastically different visions spelled out in dueling budgets being released this week, a top House Democrat said a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit remains possible.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) said he sees a narrow window that will remain open until August or September for the parties to reach agreement on a deal to reduce federal budget deficits in the coming years.
“I think we have a window of opportunity between now and around August to September,” the lawmaker said.  “As far as I know, Republicans have maintained their threat to default on our debts and obligations if there is not additional deficit reduction.
“This is an opportunity, it seems to me, to try and resolve those issues.”
And later that year, he was expressing an openness to cutting Social Security and Medicare:
Maryland Representative Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told the Reuters Washington Summit that he would be willing to consider some changes to big entitlement programs such as Medicare, the health insurance program for those 65 and older.
As wages stagnate, the cost of health care rises, pensions become a thing of the past, and 401(k)s remain unreliable, does Maryland really want to take a gamble with a candidate that may bargain away retirement security?

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