December 18, 2014

President's Bipartisan Commission Urged to Engage the Public in Search for Fiscal Solutions

  • The federal budget is an expression of our country's values. Where we choose to spend and at what levels, how and who we tax, and the borrowing we...

With President Obama’s bipartisan fiscal commission preparing for its first meeting tomorrow, some lawmakers are wisely urging its members to put a high priority on public engagement and listening to the views of Americans around the country.

“Public forums should be scheduled in every corner of the country,” said the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of House Democrats who stress fiscal responsibility, in a letter to the commission. Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), who co-sponsored legislation that would have created a somewhat different commission, also wrote the president’s panel last week. They warned that listening to the views of the public was essential to avoid a report “destined to collect dust on a bookshelf.”

Wolf and Cooper also worry that the commission, which was established Feb. 18 and has a Dec. 1 deadline to make recommendations, is off to a slow start and could end up rushing its work.

At least some commission members appear open to the calls for public engagement, and the group’s leaders have already discussed holding hearings around the country.

Final recommendations will require the approval of 14 of the 18 commission members, a high hurdle that many analysts say will be hard to clear. Obama appointed six members and congressional leaders appointed the rest.

The President will open the commission’s meeting on Tuesday at the White House. Other scheduled speakers are Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, White House Budget Director Peter Orszag, and former CBO Directors Rudy Penner and Robert Reischauer.