President's Fiscal Commission
They’re Back – Congress returns from its spring recess this week. The Senate is back in session today and the first order of business is a cloture vote this afternoon on legislation to extend expanded unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies and the Medicare “Doc fix” until May 5. Republicans are withholding support unless the cost is offset through cuts elsewhere.
Here are the highlights from this weekend’s editorials on fiscal and budget policy:
The Wall Street Journal noted the lessons that the United States could learn from Greece and their debt crisis. They noted how the US's debt held by the public was projected to reach 90% in ten years, close to the 113% level Greece is at now. According to them, "Greece's predicament...is signaling loud and clear that the spend-and-tax economic model has hit the wall."
Health Care Makes it Through the Final Hoops – Congress completed work last week on the reconciliation package, which included fixes to the health care legislation that was previously enacted – ending a March of madness in Washington. The reconciliation bill bounced between the Senate and House to make a few minor changes.
In today’s hearing before the full House Appropriations Committee, the troika (OMB Director Peter Orszag, Treasury Secretary Geithner, and Dr. Christina Romer, Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors) faced tough questions for 3.5 hours on the fiscal commission, unemployment figures, and the deficit.
Congressional GOP leaders have just named three Senators and three Congressman to sit on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, established by the President in mid-February to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level by 2015 (see CRFB's previous discussion of the Commission here).
Highway to Nowhere – Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY) has blocked a vote on temporarily extending unemployment and COBRA benefits, the Medicare “doc fix” as well as some surface transportation programs funded through the Highway Trust Fund because the $10 billion cost is not offset. He wants unused economic stimulus funds to cover the cost. The Department of Transportation has furloughed 2,000 workers in response.
President Obama has named his remaining appointees to the Commission, including David Cote (CEO for Honeywell International), Alice Rivlin (former CBO Director and OMB Director), Andy Stern (president of the Service Employees International Union) and Ann Fudge (former CEO of Young & Rubicon Brands).
Named members now include:
A little less than a week after the President signed an Executive Order establishing a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, the Democratic leadership has appointed three Democrats to sit on the Commission. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet to appoint any Republicans.
Commission Commencement – President Obama signed Thursday the Executive Order officially creating the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. He also named former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erksine Bowles and former Republican Senator Alan Simpson as the bipartisan co-chairs of the panel.