The co-chairs of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission today unveiled a draft set of proposals to reduce the federal deficit, touching off a contentious debate among lawmakers serving on the commission.
The draft is not the final report of the commission formally known as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. Rather, they are specific suggestions offered by the panel’s two chairs, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. The commission must present final recommendations to Congress by Dec. 1. Given that any recommendations will require the support of 14 of 18 commission members, finding consensus in support of any debt-reducing proposals could prove elusive.
The chairmen’s draft has not yet been made public, but according to copies obtained by numerous media outlets this afternoon, it contains about 50 pages of proposed cuts in domestic and military spending and changes to the tax code that would repeal or modify a number of popular tax breaks, including the deductibility of mortgage interest payments. The chairmen’s plan would also cut Medicare and Social Security benefits for most future retirees, according to Bloomberg News.
The chairmen estimated their proposals would achieve nearly $4 trillion in deficit reduction through 2020 and reduce the deficit to 2.2 percent of GDP by 2015.
The release of the chairmen’s plan already had Democrats and Republicans choosing sides, according to various media reports. “This is not a package that I could support,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) told Bloomberg.
If the commission can’t reach agreement on any recommendations, sources close to the process have suggested that the panel’s Democrats and Republicans could issue separate reports to Congress. Budget experts have speculated that at worst, some of the panel’s proposals could find their way into President Obama’s fiscal 2012 budget proposal to Congress due in February.