The White House has raised yet another trial balloon about empowering a deficit-cutting commission, a day after meeting with key Senators in favor of the idea.
The White House is considering a bipartisan commission to tackle the nation’s swelling deficit, as it seeks to show resolve on a problem that threatens its broader agenda.
Top White House officials, including budget director Peter Orszag, met Tuesday with Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Kent Conrad to discuss establishing such a commission, which has been pushed by Mr. Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, and his Republican counterpart on the committee, Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.
Senior congressional officials said the idea was gaining traction. Two officials said the White House was likely to make its own proposal for a panel, which could have less power than the proposed Conrad-Gregg commission. White House aides said no final decision had been made.
The Conrad-Gregg commission would be able to make recommendations that Congress would have to actively reject with an up or down vote and no filibuster, actually taking the lawmaking process out of the hands of elected lawmakers. And the commission would surely favor cuts to social spending programs, a long-sought goal of those who are advocating for it.
A group of fiscal scolds in the Senate are intimating that they would refuse to agree to raise the debt limit, sending the nation into default, if this commission was not convened. This does put the White House in a difficult spot, so if they are talking about a watered-down commission to defuse the attempted hijacking, and they actually figure it out, then at least a bullet may be dodged here.
It’s important to put this in the context of a dysfunctional legislative process. Members of the Senate would rather outsource their own responsibilities to make it easier for them to get things done. The gridlock of the Senate, and particularly the recent use of the filibuster as an artificial 60-vote threshold for the first time in American history, has led to an expansion of executive power and executive-empowered organizations (the Federal Reserve, the EPA, etc.) just to get things done. That’s actually a poor way to govern a country, a less accountable way, and it reflects the general phlegmatic public mood, and the loss of belief that America can solve its problems.
The meeting between Conrad and the White House on the deficit-cutting commission was first reported by Chris Bowers.