Senate ain’t buying Obama’s deficit reduction task force

The Senate is likely to reject a White House-backed plan to establish a bipartisan task force to recommend steps to curb the deficit, even as lawmakers digest the news that President Barack Obama wants a three-year freeze in the domestic budgets they control.

Fresh numbers arriving Tuesday morning from the Congressional Budget Office are expected to bring continued bad news on the deficit, keeping the pressure on Obama and congressional Democrats to demonstrate they’re serious about taking on the flood of red ink.

The spending freeze, expected to be proposed by Obama during the State of the Union address on Wednesday, would apply to a relatively small portion of the federal budget, affecting a $477 billion pot of money available for domestic agencies whose budgets are approved by Congress each year. Some of those agencies could get increases, others would have to face cuts; such programs got an almost 10 percent increase this year. The federal budget total was $3.5 trillion.

The freeze on so-called discretionary programs would have only a modest impact on a deficit expected to match last year’s $1.4 trillion. The steps needed to really tackle the deficit include tax increases and curbs on benefit programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

That’s the idea driving the Obama-backed plan to create a special task force to come up with a plan to curb the spiraling budget deficit. But the Senate sponsors of the plan say it’s attracted too much opposition from the right and left to prevail.

Republicans say the panel — it would try to develop a deficit reduction blueprint after the November elections for a vote before the new Congress convenes — would lead to big tax hikes. Democratic opponents say they don’t want to vote on proposals to cut benefit programs like Social Security without being able to shape the plan.

Obama’s three-year spending freeze will be part of the budget Obama will submit Feb. 1, senior administration officials said, commenting on condition of anonymity to reveal unpublished details.

It’s likely to confront opposition on Capitol Hill, where a handful of powerful lawmakers write 12 annual appropriations bills. They’ve gotten used to hefty increases but now are being asked to tighten their belts. House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., declined to comment, his spokesman said.

The Pentagon, veterans programs, foreign aid and the Homeland Security Department would be exempt from the freeze.

The savings would be small at first, perhaps $10 billion to $15 billion, one official said. But over the coming decade, savings would add up to $250 billion.

The White House is under considerable pressure to cut deficits — the red ink hit a record $1.4 trillion this year — or at least keep them from growing. Encouraged by last week’s Massachusetts Senate victory, Republicans are hitting hard on the issue, and polls show voters increasingly concerned.


  1. AustinRanter

    Our government already has a shadow government made up of I don’t how many so-called Czars. These people aren’t elected, but yet some hold a lot more power than most people think. Well, actually there are still a lot of people who don’t know that they exist.

    So when things in Washington start to turn sour…the first thing they do is want to put together some special committee or tasks force.

    What the hell does our Congressional members do besides chat with lobbyists 6 hours a day?

  2. griff

    At last count Obama has 32 czars.

    Climate Czar, Car Czar, Auto Recovery Czar, AIDS Czar, Border Czar, Domestic Violence Czar, Drug Czar, Economic Czar, Energy and Environment Czar, to name a few.

    From Russia with love.

  3. almandine

    The entire point is for the commission to produce a set of recommendations, some of which will involve taxes, and thereby Obama will get the political cover he seeks to go against his promise not to raise taxes on the middle class.

    Hey America… it ain’t my fault !

  4. griff

    The Police State, the Warfare State and the Foreign Welfare State will be exempt from cuts. How wonderful!

    I would agree with almandine. The Senate will block this proposal and force tax hikes in lieu of cuts.

  5. Anti-Fascist

    700 billion for the Pentagon WITHOUT wars. A budget deficit commission?

    Reduce the deficit:
    1) Restore the top tax rate to Kennedy levels i.e. 64%
    2) Cut the defense budget by 90%
    3) Heavy fines for outsourcing. We get no tax on workers in China and unemployment,welfare and food stamps cost bucks
    5) Cut all corporate welfare such as paying rich land owners NOT to grow crops

    A blank check to the pentagon and freeze in domestic spending. I thought McCain lost


  6. AustinRanter


    I have a feeling that McCain now thinks he won. I would have to agree. He won by not having to take on the tasks that’s presidential.

    If McCain was in the White House, well, many think that the country would be way better off. Others think we would be worse off.

    I pretty much believe that either way the Nov. 2008 election fell that, more than likely, we would all still be screwed.

    I don’t believe that McCain would have been able to withstand the pressure of all the current problems. And I saw a real possibility that Obama could well end up like Jimmy Carter.

  7. woody188

    For once the Legislature has decided to keep it’s power instead of giving it to the Unitary Executive who forms a committee or appoints a czar that answers only to the Executive.

    The purse is mightier than the sword.

  8. almandine

    A quote from the article about the book:

    “What, for all our faith and hope, has the Obama brand given us? His administration has spent, lent, or guaranteed $12.8 trillion in taxpayer dollars to Wall Street and insolvent banks in a doomed effort to re-inflate the bubble economy, a tactic that at best forestalls catastrophe and will leave us broke in a time of profound crisis.”

    Elsewhere, curerntly, I implicitly posed the question of whether we have come to this point by design or ineptitude. While I’d love to say BHO is merely inept… a boy among men… the reality is that it doesn’t matter. We’re fucked.

  9. griff

    No not really. But at least if they can convince us that they’re merely inept then they can convince us that the next guy has the answers. And the cycle continues…