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October 22, 2013

Cole: Budget negotiations will be tough going

NORMAN — Finding common ground will be crucial to bridging the $90 billion chasm between the Republican and Democrat federal budget proposals, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole said Monday.

“Why don’t we start where we agree, rather than where we disagree?” said Cole, R-Moore.

Cole, who represents Oklahoma’s Fourth District, is one of four House Republicans appointed to serve on a 29-person conference committee to negotiate the budget. The committee — which includes seven House members and 22 senators — has been charged with the goal of producing a budget resolution by Dec. 13.

Cole anticipates that the process could be “very fractious.”

“It’s like negotiating Middle East peace,” he said. “The divisions that exist on Capitol Hill are divisions that exist in American society.”

The budget conference will bring four groups to the table: House Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats. Additionally, the president has a budget.

Cole hopes the committee will first tackle the areas where those groups agree, such as the United States Chained Consumer Price Index. One tool for reducing the deficit and moving forward might be using the Chained CPI as a way of establishing cost-of-living increases, Cole said.

The Chained CPI, or C-CPI-U in the language of government alphabet soup, was first published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2002. It was created to be a closer approximation to cost of living than existing measurements, according to the BLS.

In simplest terms, instead of using only rising costs in set categories, allowance is made for consumers shifting to lower-cost items. The BLS website uses the example of pork and beef as an illustration: If the price of pork rises, people buy less pork and more beef.

Rather than using the increase in pork prices as a set cost-of-living increase, the Chained CPI takes the substitution to lower-cost beef into account.

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