Looks like the House has raised the debt ceiling temporarily for the next two months, thus avoiding the Conrad-Gregg fast-track “deficit” commission that threatened to make cuts to Social Security and Medicare in the name of reducing the deficit. (See this previous post, and this, and this.) A group of Senators has vowed to hold up an increase in the debt ceiling unless such a commission is put in place. (Funny, why didn’t they try to do that when the previous administration was racking up such huge deficits?)
However, the pressure for some sort of cost-cutting commission is intense. On Monday, a coalition consisting of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Pew Trust, and Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget held a press conference at the National Press Club to release the report of what they called the “Peterson-Pew Commission on Budget Reform.” The Peterson Foundation was founded in 2008 with an endowment of $1 billion by its namesake, who made his money as a co-founder of the Blackstone Group, a huge multinational investment firm. With that kind of money (Peterson & Pew) behind the call for the fast-track commission, it’s hard to ignore.
Yet, a large coalition of nonprofit groups — more than 40 — has sent a letter to Congress urging it to resist the suggestion that a fast-track commission that starts off with a predisposition to cut social benefits is the right way to work on the deficit. In addition, thousands of individuals have signed a petition that we initiated urging President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid to say no to such a commission.
And in a new wrinkle, CNN reported today that the Obama Administration is considering an executive order to create a similar commission. This would be preferable to the commission proposed by Conrad and Gregg:
If Obama signed an executive order to create the commission, however, it would not have the full force of law and thus the outside commission could not mandate that Congress vote up-or-down on the recommendations. This would also give the president more wiggle room to ignore the recommendations if the commission suggests, for example, raising taxes on people earning less than $250,000 a year, which would break an Obama campaign promise.
So, we have the next two months to fight the undemocratic fast-track commission idea. That’s better news than we might have expected…