The 18-member commission appointed to recommend ways to cut the federal budget deficit and national debt was unable to reach the 14-member threshold required to approve a final report and send it to Congress.
The National Commission for Fiscal Responsibility and Reform did manage to attract 11 votes, according to one of its members, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., but still fell short of the needed majority (see Deficit Commission Tries to Close the Gap).
“Every one of us has cast tough votes, maybe the toughest of our careers,” said the commission’s co-chair, former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. He credited his co-chair, Erskine Bowles, a former chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and other members. Five of the six senators appointed to the commission supported the plan, Simpson noted. “We took a big banana and threw it into the gorilla cage," he said. "The gorilla picked it up, peeled it, mashed it, but they will eat some. Many pieces of this will be digested and nourish this country.” Simpson then added that “he’s going to get the hell out of town, and live and sleep in the streets.”
“It’s been a long, hard slog for all of us,” said Bowles, adding that no-one on the commission was in denial any longer about the problems facing the country over the mounting budget deficits. “People really believe that this is the moment of truth,” he said. “The threat of these deficits is real. The solutions are absolutely going to be painful. There’s no way around it, and there is no easy way out, but at the end of this journey, America will be a better place.”
He noted that a strong bipartisan coalition had voted for the plan, but that each has reservations about it. Among the recommendations in the final report, entitled “The Moment of Truth,” are to sharply reduce tax rates, broaden the tax base, simplify the Tax Code, and reduce the deficit by getting rid of many tax expenditures. They recommended cutting tax rates across the board, and reducing the top rate to between 23 and 29 percent, while enacting "tough discretionary spending caps" and cuts in agricultural subsidies.
Despite the lack of unanimity, President Obama congratulated the commission on its work, saying, “The Commission’s report underscores that to sustain growth in the medium and long term we need to face some difficult choices to curb runaway debt. It will require cutting the spending we don’t need in order to invest in what’s necessary to grow our economy and our middle-class. It will require all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to find common ground without compromising the fundamental principles we hold dear. Because the undeniable fact is that no one party can successfully tackle this challenge alone.”
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