Deficit Commission Members Resume Negotiations as Budget Crisis Looms

February 21, 2011

With Republicans faulting President Obama for failing to offer a deficit-reducing budget, some Democrats are defending the president while noting that half of the 12 elected members of Obama’s doomed deficit commission are still on the job and looking for deeper cuts.

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., was one of 18 individuals appointed to Obama’s deficit commission, which failed to reach a 14-member supermajority in December to advance recommendations for Congress to consider on reducing the debt.

Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, said Sunday that some of the members of the group have reconvened to take a second look at recommendations that would make deeper cuts than Obama’s proposed budget for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1.

“The good news is this. There are six of us, three Democrats and three Republicans, still meeting, looking at the deficit commission as a template or as a goal in trying to find a way to work together in a bipartisan fashion in the Senate to come up with a reasonable way to deal with this deficit,” Durbin told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

“We can build on the president’s budget into deeper cuts but we need to put everything on the table with the exception of Social Security. … Everything else needs be on the table,” he said.

It’s a difficult turn for Democrats to make even as the president’s proposed budget — which would freeze current spending levels for the next five years — was widely panned for its failure to adequately bring down deficits.

Still, lawmakers fretting over the budget for the current fiscal year — which is already five months gone — agree more needs to be done for the future than what the president is suggesting.

“Frankly, no matter what budget the president laid down, it was going to be attacked,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think he laid down some significant cuts. I think we’ve got a lot more work to do and I’m willing to get at the table and get it done.”

“I think that the negotiations going on among the bipartisan group of six are a very good thing, and I want them to continue, and I hope they will be successful, and I think most Democrats share that view,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chairman of the House Budget Committee and a member of the deficit panel who is still negotiating, said the president “has fallen” in his commitment to propose solutions to the causes of the nation’s debt, now exceeding $14 trillion.

“The president’s proposing a $1.6 trillion tax increase. He’s proposing $8.7 trillion in new spending. And he’s proposing to add $13 trillion to our new debt,” Ryan told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

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