Utah Sen. Mitt Romney announced new bipartisan legislation Wednesday intended to confront a national debt that has more than doubled in a decade.

The Fiscal Stability Act, led by Romney, a Republican, and West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, would establish a commission charged “with finding legislative solutions to stabilize and decrease” a debt that now exceeds $33.6 trillion.

“It is immoral and unacceptable for my generation to keep adding to the national debt, expecting our grandchildren to foot the bill for our benefits for the rest of their lives,” Romney said in a statement. 

“As a country, we must get serious about the national debt, which is why Sen. Manchin and I are coming together to propose a new fiscal commission tasked with coming up with legislative solutions to improve the federal government’s fiscal health and get a handle on the debt before it’s too late,” he said.

Mitt Romney talks about who might replace him — and what comes next

There is a chance the new commission could be added to the continuing resolution needed to avert a Nov. 17 shutdown of the U.S. government, one of the options being considered by new House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., according to Punchbowl News.

The creation of “a statutory debt commission” is a “leading option” for a clean continuing resolution “with some extraneous provisions that the Senate could accept,” the political news outlet reported Tuesday, citing sources close to the process.

Romney said the legislation is patterned after the 2010 Simpson-Bowles plan to reduce the national debt that was produced by a bipartisan commission headed by two former senators but didn’t go anywhere in Congress.

What’s different about the Fiscal Stability Act, Romney said Thursday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” is that there’s a privileged process to make sure the legislation gets to the floor for a vote. There’s also more urgency to deal with a much larger debt, he said.

“So, the process is better, the urgency is greater, and I think as a result, you’re going to see people rally around this,” Romney said. “But until the American people begin to think about what would happen if this debt continues to rise, we’re not going to be able to get the job done. But I think in this case, we’ve got a good shot.”

‘We’ve got a crisis coming’

Pressed about the difficulty of rallying support for a new debt reduction plan, he acknowledged that’s a heavy lift.

“Let’s not be Pollyannish about this. We’ve got a crisis coming. We recognize that the level of debt in our country cannot continue to go up and up and up because we’re going to hit a wall,” Romney said, adding, “There will be a crisis at some point. We’re trying to avert that.”

Social Security won’t change for older Americans, Romney said.

“The reality is, not everything is on the table because neither one of us, and nobody else is talking about, changing our entitlements for retirees or people nearing retirement,” he said. “Those are promises made. Those promises will be kept. There’s going to be no change in the entitlement program for our seniors.

But for those in their twenties, thirties or forties, “some adjustments” do need to be made, Romney said, such as linking eligibility to life expectancy, and offering options for when they start receiving benefits.

“There’s a lot of things we can do,” he said, citing a proposal to borrow money to invest in the stock market and use the returns to help pay for Social Security.

When Romney declared in September he would not seek a second term next year, he said he represented Republicans who still care about issues such as the debt, and pledged to “do what I can to help restore what I think is the ‘wise wing’ of the Republican Party.”

He told the Deseret News then that dealing with the debt would be the focus of his remaining time in office, along with immigration.

A description of the Fiscal Stability Act states, “Both parties are to blame — fiscal policies enacted by both Republicans and Democrats have led to soaring annual budget deficits, which totaled $1.3 trillion in 2023 alone.”

The act’s co-sponsors include Republican Sens. Todd Young of Indiana, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas and Thom Tillis of North Carolina; Democratic Sens. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Mark Warner of Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire; and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

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Companion legislation in the House, the bipartisan Fiscal Commission Act, was introduced by Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., and Scott Peters, D-Calif.

The plan to fix our national debt that was too reasonable

What the Fiscal Stability Act would do:

  • Establish a 16-member bipartisan, bicameral commission consisting of 12 elected officials and four outside experts. The House speaker and minority leader, and the Senate majority and minority leaders would each appoint three members of their chambers along with an outside expert.
  • The commission would have until May 1, 2025, to approve a report and proposed legislation “to improve the long-term fiscal condition of the federal government, stabilize the ratio of public debt to GDP within a 15-year period, and improve solvency of federal trust funds over a 75-year period.”
  • Among the 12 elected members of the commission, at least three from each party would have to sign off on the report and any proposed legislative language.
  • Expedited consideration in both chambers would be given to the commission’s approved legislation, and only a simple majority of the Senate would be needed to proceed although 60 votes would still be required for final passage.

Manchin said he is proud to introduce what he called “commonsense legislation” with Romney.

“Our fiscal house is not in order and it is past time we get serious about addressing the unsustainable path our national debt is on,” Manchin said in a statement.

“Our national debt weakens our economic and national security and jeopardizes our leadership on the international stage,” he said. “If we cannot come together to rein in this looming crisis, we will be failing the American people and harming the well-being of our future generations.”

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