Obama Set To Name Commission To Help Reduce National Debt
President Obama plans to name former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) as co-chairs of a federal debt commission that he will create by executive order on Thursday, according to administration officials, the Wall Street Journal reports (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 2/17).
In January, Obama endorsed a Senate amendment that would have created a similar bipartisan panel, but lawmakers defeated the provision because of concerns that the commission could be used to enact severe spending cuts to Medicare and Medicaid.
The vote came just after the Congressional Budget Office released a report that projected the federal deficit for this fiscal year -- which ends Sept. 30 -- would be $1.3 trillion, down from $1.4 trillion last year (California Healthline, 1/27).
White House aides have not yet discussed the specifics of the president's panel -- officially titled the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform -- or how much influence it would have on lawmakers (Talev, Sacramento Bee, 2/17).
However, it is likely that Obama's version of the commission would be weaker than the panel considered in the Senate. For example, it is unlikely that the president's commission could force Congress to act on its advice (Elliott, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/16).
According to the Journal, the president's panel would comprise 18 members, including eight Republicans -- six of whom would be named by GOP leaders, while the remaining two would be decided by the White House.
The commission's goal would be to reduce the federal budget deficit from about 10% currently to 3% of the U.S. gross domestic product by 2015.It also would propose ways to control rising costs in government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid (Wall Street Journal, 2/17). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.