Wed. 9:14 pm: Deficit hawks press ahead despite obstacles

WASHINGTON – Washington’s outgunned deficit hawks huddled today for their annual pep rally, but this year’s gathering came as lawmakers and the White House have given up any pretense of tackling the country’s budget woes in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

The annual “fiscal summit” was held just blocks from the Capitol, where the Senate was debating a measure extending tax breaks for a variety of special interests for another two years at a cost of $85 billion.

This year’s summit also occurred as Democrats and Republicans were taking a break from battling over the budget after a tumultuous 2013. Last fall’s government shutdown and subsequent small-scale budget deal and increase in the debt limit have combined to take away any pressure for a budget deal this year. It also came as deficits – while still large – have tumbled sharply from the $1 billion-plus deficits of President Barack Obama’s first term.

The gathering attracted top Washington talent like Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The marquee attraction, however, was an out-of-towner: New Jersey GOP Gov. Chris Christie, a top prospect for his party’s presidential nomination in 2016. When asked by CBS’ Bob Schieffer if he’s thinking of running for president and when he’ll make a decision, Christie said, “Yes, and later.”

The summit is hosted by Pete Peterson, who has staked $1 billion of his Wall Street fortune on a foundation bearing his name that is dedicated to educating the public on the perils of the deficit. The gatherings tend to chew over the same ground, year after year, as participants lament lost opportunities to wrestle the deficits under control and look ahead to future ones.