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Published February 12, 2013, 02:26 PM

Conrad Joins Fix the Debt Campaign

Former Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has joined former allies in the effort to resolve the nation’s budget problems, signing on with the national Campaign to Fix the Debt.

By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald

Former Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has joined former allies in the effort to resolve the nation’s budget problems, signing on with the national Campaign to Fix the Debt.

Conrad, a former Senate Budget Committee chairman who chose not to seek re-election in November, has been added to the campaign’s national steering committee.

The campaign was founded and is co-chaired by North Carolina Democrat Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, who gave their names to a deficit reduction plan that failed to win sufficient support in 2010. Conrad also was a member of that commission.

Fix the Debt calls itself “a non-partisan movement to put America on a better fiscal and economic path” by rallying people “from a variety of social, economic and political perspectives” who share the belief that America’s growing federal debt must be addressed.

Members include current and former members of Congress, governors, mayors and business leaders “who want to see elected officials step up to solve our nation’s fiscal challenges,” according to its website, www.fixthedebt.org.

Conrad also was a member of the Senate’s so-called Gang of Six, a bipartisan effort to fix the country’s budget problems, and “has demonstrated a unique drive for addressing the country’s fiscal problems,” according to a statement today by the campaign.

Conrad was not immediately available to comment on his new role. “The vision he brings … will amplify our message, and it couldn’t come at a better time,” according to the statement. “In Washington, it seems like lawmakers have mastered doing the very least to avoid the very worst. Senator Conrad has never been one to ‘settle for the least.’ We need a deal that is big enough to truly control our debt over the long term, and Senator Conrad has long been pushing for one.”

As a member of the Simpson-Bowles Commission, Conrad supported its recommendations on budget reforms, spending cuts and other measures. The commission’s plan provides a framework for Fix the Debt’s bipartisan call to reduce the deficit and stabilize the debt.

During recent fiscal cliff negotiations, Conrad “pushed for bipartisan compromise and urged colleagues not to settle for a ‘stripped down’ budget plan,” according to the statement.

The statement quoted Conrad as saying the country’s budget problems were years in the making.

“Looking back over the past 10 years, it is easy to see where doing nothing — or just the bare minimum to avoid defaulting on our obligations — will get us,” he said. “Washington needs to work together, that’s the only way to reach a deal that will correct the current course we’re on.”

Conrad, who was mentioned as a possible member of President Barack Obama’s new Cabinet, told Forum Communications in November that such an appointment was not likely and that he was looking forward to spending more time with loved ones.

But he said, according to today’s announcement, he is “proud to join the Campaign to Fix the Debt because we simply can’t afford to stand on the sidelines.”

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