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Senate Rejects Deficit Reduction Commission

January 26, 2010 - by Eric Naing

The Senate today rejected an amendment creating a bipartisan deficit reduction commission first proposed by Sen. Kent Conrad [D, ND] and Sen. Judd Gregg [R, NH].

The amendment was rejected by a thoroughly bipartisan vote of 53-46. You can view the roll call details including party-position breakdowns by clicking here.

Under the terms of the amendment, the commission would consist of 18 members: two appointed by the president and four each by House and Senate majority and minority leaders. The commission would meet to propose politically dangerous suggestions for reducing the deficit, now estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to be $1.3 trillion this fiscal year. These suggestions could take the form of tax increases or spending cuts for social programs. If 14 of the 18 members of the commission approve of the suggestions, they move on to Congress to be voted on in both chambers.

Despite significant bipartisan support for the original bill and the support of President Obama, many expected the commission would be rejected by the Senate. Interestingly, the commission came under fire from both the left and right.

Conservatives, like Senate Republican leader Sen. Mitch McConnell [R, KY], think the commission is just a way for Democrats to raise taxes. McConnell is expected to propose an alternative commission focused solely on spending cuts. Liberals groups, on the other hand, fear that the deficit commission will chip away at Social Security and Medicare. Congressional Democrats like House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D, CA-8] also worry that the commission undermines the authority of Congress.

Conrad and Gregg’s commission has gone through several iterations and probably has at least one more mutation left to go. The idea originally took the form of S.2853 but has now become an amendment to H.J.Res.45, a measure raising the federal debt limit.

Since the Conrad-Gregg commission failed to pass, it is likely that President Obama will go ahead with his preferred back-up plan of issuing an executive order creating his own bipartisan deficit reduction commission, only this commission would lack the power to force Congress to vote on its recommendations. Obama is expected to announce his commission during tomorrow’s State of the Union address.

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