President Obama met with the leaders of his deficit reduction commission on Thursday morning, a day after announcing a fiscal vision that borrowed heavily from the bipartisan panel’s work.
Before the meeting, the president thanked former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former senator Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) for their leadership on the panel and said he would continue to consult with them on how to move forward with the plan.
“As they pointed out in their bipartisan effort, it is important that we put everything on the table,” Obama said.
Obama laid out his proposal during a speech Wednesday at George Washington University, calling for sharp cuts in defense and domestic spending and higher taxes on the wealthy to trim the nation’s climbing deficit by $4 trillion over the next 12 years.
After the president’s speech, Simpson reportedly recoiled and blurted out “Pray for the Gang of Six” to two reporters. Simpson was apparently expressing hope for the small bipartisan group of senators fashioning a plan to implement the commission’s ideas.
During his speech, Obama repeatedly attacked the Republican plan — by Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) — to rein in the deficit trimming spending by $5.8 trillion over 10 years and reducing taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Some have raised concerns that Obama’s rhetoric could frustrate bipartisan efforts.
On Wednesday Obama also announced that a bipartisan group of 16 members of Congress — eight from each chamber -- and Vice President Biden would negotiate over the legislation and come up with a plan by late June.
Obama’s proposal in many ways resembles the fiscal commission’s blueprint, though with some significant differences. Obama’s defense cuts are less drastic. And his goal of $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years falls two years short of the commission’s suggestion to cut the same amount in 10 years.
Joining the president’s meeting with Bowles and Simpson were Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and White House Chief of Staff William Daley.
“We’re going to need the help of citizens who’ve served this country in extraordinary ways in the past and are continuing to do so in their spare time,” Obama said before the meeting. “I’m looking forward to having them as partners in order to get this done.”
Bowles and Simpson, in a statement released before the meeting, said the president “has embraced a balanced, comprehensive approach to deficit reduction similar to that outlined in the Fiscal Commission report.
“We believe that only an approach which includes all areas of the budget can reach the broad bipartisan agreement necessary to enact a real and responsible deficit reduction plan...While the President’s proposal takes longer to get to the budget reductions we recommended, it does reduce our deficits by $4 trillion over the next 12 years.”