Fiscal Commission Gains Momentum

The chance that some type of bipartisan commission will be created to address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges increased significantly this week as the idea has gained support and key leaders appear to be responding to mounting pressure to adopt the proposal.

CNN reported on Tuesday that President Obama is seriously contemplating an executive order to establish a commission, with White House advisors debating on how broad a mandate the panel should have. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who previously had been cold to such the idea, was quoted by Politico today as saying that “we’ll come to terms on a commission” early next year.

A group of key centrists in the Senate have demanded a vote on legislation to create a commission that will make recommendations to reduce the mounting federal debt in order to gain their support for a long-term debt limit increase.

At a hearing convened by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs today former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan offered his approval of a bipartisan commission, saying it is “an excellent idea.” At the hearing, Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) stated that the proposal he introduced last week with Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) now has 34 sponsors. Conrad testified that a commission is needed because the “regular order will not take on burgeoning debt.”

There are still several issues that must be resolved among competing proposals for a budget panel. One is whether it should be formed though legislation or presidential directive. A directive would be easier to execute, but the commission would not have the full force of law and could not mandate that Congress vote up or down on its recommendations, like the Conrad/Gregg bill proposes. Other issues include how broad a mandate the entity should have and the make-up of the panel – whether it should be composed entirely of Members of Congress or include others.

CRFB supports a bipartisan special process for tackling the debt in the hope that it will focus much-needed attention on fiscal responsibility and establishing a shared fiscal goal. According to a recent statement from CRFB president Maya MacGuineas. “It is less important to us the specifics of any commission or task force than the reflection that Congress and the White House are finally willing to turn their attention to this pressing problem.”