Deficit commission report wins 11-7 support, not enough to force Congress to act

By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, Dec. 3 - The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform concluded its 10 month deliberations with 11 of its 18 members approving a bipartisan report which includes a combination of sharp spending cuts and tax reforms. There was no formal vote since it was a foregone conclusion that the report wouldn't win the 14 votes supermajority required for the report to be forwarded to the House and Senate for floor votes.

Since there was bipartisan majority support for cutting spending by $3.9 trillion over ten years and for a sweeping overhaul of the tax code, the commission's co-chairmen, Alan Simpson, former Republican Senator from Wyoming, and Erskine Bowles, Chief of Staff during the Clinton administration, declared victory.

 Together we can feed the Bees
At the head of the negotiating table, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson chair their deficit commission's final session Friday. Photo: Agri-Pulse

Simpson said he's proud of the final recommendations. But he warned that “zealots” will use “untruthful distortions” about the recommendations to discredit them. Co-chair Erskine Bowles said it's now up to Congress and the administration to have the courage to work together bipartisanly to make the tough choices needed to cut spending, reform the tax code, and “eliminate these dreadful deficits.”

Just as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) had to compromise to support a deficit reduction package which includes some tax hikes, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) found it difficult but necessary to vote for a package which he considered includes unfairly large spending cuts. But both conservative Coburn and liberal Durbin explained that they voted yes because of the urgent need to cut the federal deficit - and because they hope Congress will make further changes next year to come up with a more acceptable package.

Charles Konigsberg, Director of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force which issued its own deficit reduction plan last month, commented that “The 11 commission members, out of a total of 18, who publicly expressed support for the most recent plan from co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson have clearly demonstrated that a bipartisan group of leaders with diverse views on public policy can come together around a comprehensive plan. That six of those 11 members were members of Congress - three Democrats and three Republicans - is even more striking because it shows that elected officials can rise above the inevitable criticism that they will face for cutting popular programs and raising revenues in order to meet the urgent goal of reducing soaring deficits and unsustainable debt.

Voting Yes on the Simpson-Bowles package:

Sen. Alan Simpson
Erskine Bowles
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)
David Cote, Chairman and CEO, Honeywell International
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL)
Ann Fudge, Former CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
Alice Rivlin, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institute and former Director, Office of Management & Budget
Rep. John Spratt (D-SC)

Voting No:

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA)
Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL)
Andrew Stern, President, Service Employees International Union

For details on the commission's recommendations for farm program cuts, go to: For details on the surprise decision of conservative Republican Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) to vote for the report, go to:

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