July 26, 2014

Negotiators Face Difficult Task

  • 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...

Congressional leaders have completed their appointments to a deficit-reduction panel proposed by President Obama but the group will have little time to develop a long-term plan, and some of those named have not shown great enthusiasm for the broad-based approach that will be needed.

The group’s main purpose appears to be finding a politically acceptable way to avoid a crisis over the raising of the federal debt limit. Some sort of process reform, perhaps with caps on appropriations, seems more likely at this stage than agreement on major substantive changes. For that reason Robert L. Bixby, executive director of The Concord Coalition, has called the group “the official Fig Leaf Commission.”

Eventually, however, the panel could play a useful role in giving its blessing to recommendations that might be presented by the bipartisan “Gang of Six” in the Senate. Members of that informal group have indicated a serious interest in a comprehensive approach to long-term deficit reduction, as recommended by a number of bipartisan commissions and organizations.

The negotiations proposed by Obama are to begin May 5, with the goal of developing a plan by the end of June. Vice President Joe Biden will lead the talks.

Other negotiators who have been appointed are Senate Appropriations Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Republican Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Budget Committee.