A White House official tells ABC News that President Obama on Thursday will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to make recommendations on how to reduce the skyrocketing national debt.
In Nashua, NH, on February 2, the president said “it keeps me awake at night, looking at all that red ink. Most of it is structural and we inherited it. The only way that we are going to fix it is if both parties come together and start making some tough decisions about our long-term priorities.”
The commission will be co-chaired by former President Bill Clinton’s former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, R-Wyoming, the former Senate Republican Whip.
Bowles is currently President of the University of North Carolina. As Clinton’s chief of staff from 1996 through 1998, he was credited with having brokered the last significant bipartisan budget agreement, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Simpson was a US Senator from Wyoming from 1979 to 1997. He currently practices law with his two sons in Cody, Wyoming, is a co-chair of Americans for Campaign Reform and served on the Iraq Study group.
President Obama has expressed frustration with the fact that a congressional move to form a such a commission was defeated in the Senate with seven Republicans who had originally co-sponsored the legislation voting against it, expressing concern that it could lead to tax increases. (Although the whole point of the commission was to put everything on the table, tax increases and spending cuts, and to try to work out a palatable compromise and have everyone vote on it, as happened with the base closure commission.)
“I'm open to honest differences of opinion” the president said to Senate Democrats earlier this month. “But what I'm not open to is changing positions solely because it's good short-term politics. And what I'm not open to is a decision to stay on the sidelines and then assign blame.”
- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller