President Obama endorses bipartisan deficit-reduction panel

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bowing to the concerns of senators of both political parties, President Obama endorsed legislation Saturday that would create a bipartisan commission to develop a plan to address the nation's soaring budget deficits.

Obama previously had urged that a presidential fiscal panel be created. But some senators were concerned that such a panel would have limited authority, preferring instead a statutory commission empowered to force a deficit-reduction plan through Congress by year's end.

"We not only need to change how we pay for policies, but we also need to change how Washington works," Obama said in a statement. "The only way to solve our long-term fiscal challenge is to solve it together -- Democrats and Republicans."

It is unclear whether Obama's endorsement will be enough to rally the 60 votes needed to push a statutory commission through the Senate; a vote is scheduled for Tuesday. The measure's prospects in the House are also uncertain. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has resisted the idea of permitting such a body to dictate tax hikes or spending cuts to Congress. Obama's decision to endorse a statutory fiscal commission comes just four days before his inaugural State of the Union speech, in which he is expected to address the fiscal problems.

The deficit reached $1.4 trillion last year and is expected to continue to be at or near that level this fiscal year and into the future.

"With tough choices made together, a commitment to pay for what we spend and responsible stewardship of our economy, we will be able to lay the foundation for sustainable job creation and economic growth while restoring fiscal sustainability to our nation," Obama said.

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