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Simpson, Bowles in line to join Obama's deficit commission

By Lori Montgomery
President Obama plans to name former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican senator Alan Simpson to chair a special bipartisan commission to solve the federal government's budget problems, an administration official said Tuesday.

Obama plans to make the announcement Thursday, when he intends to sign an executive order creating the commission, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. It will be charged with coming up with a plan to raise taxes and cut federal spending to significantly reduce projected budget deficits by 2015.

Bowles, who last week announced his retirement as president of the University of North Carolina system, served in the White House during the Clinton administration. He was one of the chief negotiators of the last bipartisan budget agreement in 1997.

Simpson, a longtime senator from Wyoming, rose to become the Republican whip in the Senate, a post he lost shortly before his retirement in 1996. He is still widely respected by congressional Republicans, and Democrats hope his involvement will spur Republican leaders to cooperate in the painful process of reordering the nation's fiscal priorities.

So far, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have rebuffed Obama, saying the commission is likely to be stacked to promote tax increases and designed to provide political cover to Democrats in the run-up to the November elections.

Administration officials have said the commission would be asked to come up with a plan to reduce the deficit in 2015 to 3 percent of the overall economy -- a reduction of several hundred billion dollars -- but to do so only after the elections, with Congress expected to vote on the recommendations by the end of this year.

"Blue-ribbon commissions are fine and dandy, but we're still waiting for a response from the president on our proposal to start cutting spending right now,"said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, referring to Boehner's request that Obama use his authority to immediately start cutting federal spending.

By Lori Montgomery  |  February 16, 2010; 5:39 PM ET
Categories:  44 The Obama Presidency , Economy  
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