Obama to get deficit commission with or without Republican help, Hoyer says

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post staff writer
Thursday, February 4, 2010; 3:25 PM

President Obama will appoint a commission to tackle the nation's budget problems with or without the cooperation of Republican congressional leaders, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday.

"The president and we are very hopeful that [House Minority Leader John A.] Boehner and [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell will appoint people to participate in the deliberations," Hoyer said on a conference call with reporters. "But the president will not be precluded from moving forward just because Leader Boehner and Leader McConnell choose not to participate."

So far, Boehner (R-Ohio) and McConnell (R-Ky.) have indicated that they have little interest in appointing members to the 18-member commission, which is intended to include six Republican lawmakers and six Democratic lawmakers, as well as six presidential appointees under an agreement cut between congressional Democrats and the White House. If 14 of the 18 members agreed, a plan to raise taxes, cut spending and rein in soaring budget deficits would be sent to Congress for a vote after this fall's congressional elections. Republicans have derided the commission as a scheme to give Democrats political cover on the issue until after they face voters.

Obama pledged to appoint the commission during last week's State of the Union address but has yet to take action.

Hoyer, who led the House in talks with the White House and Senate on the issue, said Obama will not permit GOP recalcitrance to block action on the deficit. If Boehner and McConnell refuse to appoint lawmakers, Hoyer said, Obama will select his own set of Republicans -- "perhaps former members [of Congress], perhaps others, that are people that can make a real contribution to how we get to balance over the coming years."

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