For months now self-styled “deficit hawks” in Congress such as Senator Kent Conrad have been calling for the creation of a new legislative bureaucracy that would address deficit reduction. Conrad, in fact, has made the creation of such a bureaucracy a prerequisite for his vote to expand the national debt ceiling.
It’s been reported before that legislation to create this panel, backed by Conrad and Senator Judd Gregg, doesn’t have the votes. But now Obama has thrown his weight behind its creation, saying that if Congress doesn’t create one he will.
President Barack Obama on Saturday called on Congress to pass a bill creating a fiscal commission amid reports that he will likely create an executive commission if Congress does not act.
Obama issued a statement calling for Republicans and Democrats to join the effort, even though Republicans have already voiced their opposition to the plan.
“I strongly support legislation currently under consideration to create a bipartisan, fiscal commission to come up with a set of solutions to tackle our nation’s fiscal challenges – and call on Senators from both parties to vote for the creation of a statutory, bipartisan fiscal commission,” the president said.
The proposal by Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) is slated to receive a vote next week during the debate to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
Obama creating such a panel would have clear separation of powers issues. After all, the President has only veto power over legislation. He cannot dictate to Congress how they legislate. Of course, he could always use threats of vetoes to push Congress into participating in a panel he sets up, but with his own party controlling Congress that seems unlikely at this point.
Regardless, this is all little more than political theater aimed at giving the appearance of a new dedication to deficit reduction by Democrats without actually inhibiting their big-government agenda. As Rep. Mike Pence pointed out earlier this week, Obama’s plans for deficit reduction wouldn’t allow cuts to discretionary spending. And members of Congress can already introduce spending cuts in Congress that can be passed by 50 votes even in the Senate.
Adding another layer of legislative bureaucracy onto that process doesn’t seem likely to make the process any easier. In fact, one criticism of this initiative I’ve had since it was first proposed by Conrad and Gregg is that it will actually make deficit reduction harder.
But then, actual deficit reduction isn’t the goal here. The goal, once again, is to give the appearance of these politicians having done something to fix our nation’s budgeting problems without them having to actually follow through with action.