Late in December 2009, the Senate increased the federal debt limit to a record $12.4 trillion – boosting chances for the establishment of a bipartisan commission to look for ways to force Congress to make painful spending cuts and tax increases. The Washington Post reports that even though such commissions have had a mixed record in the past, 35 senators from both parties support creating a commission to force a vote on budget cuts and tax hikes.
Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) introduced legislation to create a bipartisan fiscal task force to address the nation’s long-term budget crisis. The bill establishes an 18-member task force comprised of ten Democrats and eight Republicans. According to Senator Conrad’s press release, the panel would have bipartisan co-chairs. It would consist entirely of currently serving members of Congress as well as the Treasury Secretary and one other administration official selected by the President. The task force recommendations, which would be submitted to the Congress after the 2010 elections, would be considered by Congress under expedited procedures.
President Obama is expected to include a proposal for a debt commission in his fiscal year 2011 Budget which will be sent to Congress the first week in February. CNN’s White House correspondent Ed Henry reports that President Obama is seriously considering an executive order to create a bipartisan commission to consider sweeping tax increases and spending cuts to popular entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare in an effort to slash the soaring federal deficit.
Groups such as the Concord Coalition and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation continue to press for action to bring the deficit under control, while senior budget officials from Member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are drafting a report with strategies for countries to transition from current levels of fiscal imbalances to more sustainable levels.