Senators May Add Deficit Reduction Commission to Debt Limit Bill

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) said today “a group of lawmakers would agree soon to a proposal for a bipartisan commission to force reductions in federal deficits, hoping to attach it either to must-pass legislation raising the nation’s debt limit or, failing that, to the pending health care bill,” the New York Times reports.

Senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, spoke after a committee hearing where all the invited witnesses — members of Congress and outside budget analysts — were, like him, supporters of some commission. Nearly all said they were “reluctant converts,” as two put it, having concluded that Democrats and Republicans cannot reach the needed compromises on spending cuts and tax increases without some forcing mechanism.

Mr. Conrad said he and Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, the senior Republican on the budget committee, have agreed on legislation for a task force of lawmakers and administration officials that would report recommendations by the end of 2010 — after next November’s elections. It would require Congress to vote quickly on the package, without amendments, during a lame-duck session.

Other lawmakers have similar proposals. But Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, and Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, have proposed not a one-time panel but a permanent 15-member commission comprised mostly of outside experts and only a few lawmakers; they would periodically propose ways to balance the benefits and revenues of Medicare and Social Security for Congress to vote on.

(credit image – getty)

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