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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Biden deficit task force off to rocky start

From the Washington Post:

A congressional task force launched by President Obama last week to help cut the federal deficit is off to a rocky start, with some members complaining that the agenda is destined to provide political theater, not a sweeping rewrite of spending and tax policy.

Several members said it was unclear whether the commission, to be chaired by Vice President Biden, will become the source of a bipartisan deal on cutting the deficit or simply serve as a diversion while an agreement is quietly negotiated elsewhere. That’s what happened in December, when public talks on Capitol Hill over extending Bush-era tax cuts were a cover for back-door negotiations, led by Biden, that ultimately yielded a deal.

Obama called for the commission last week during a long-awaited speech outlining a strategy for taming the nation’s borrowing. He proposed that each party in the House and Senate name four members, for a total of 16. White House officials had calculated that congressional leaders would find it easier to navigate the internal politics of their caucuses if there were a relatively large number of slots.

But congressional leaders rejected the plan, concluding that 16 members would be unwieldy. Instead, Senate and House Democrats are sending two lawmakers each and Republicans one senator and one House member.

At least three of the lawmakers named to the commission — Van Hollen and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) — were part of the public tax-cut talks in December that were overtaken by secret negotiations.

An administration official said Thursday that, this time around, there are no side talks and that Obama remains committed to the Biden commission.

But there is already a group of six senators, three Democrats and three Republicans, who are working on their own to reach a deficit reduction deal. The “Gang of Six” could propose, possibly next month, a plan that includes deeper entitlement cuts than Democrats have ever supported and tax increases that previously have been anathema for Republicans.

The most pressing concern for the Biden commission is to determine what to do about the debt ceiling. The government needs to keep borrowing money to pay off other loans and meet its obligations. By July 8, the Treasury will run out of options and, without some agreement, begin defaulting. The administration wants to reach a deal quickly before concerns over a possible default start to roil financial markets.

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