U.S. deficit report will emerge regardless of vote
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The co-chairmen of President Barack Obama's deficit commission on Friday said they will make public the panel's report on how to balance the U.S. budget even if it doesn't get enough votes from commission members to be submitted to Congress.
Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles have already issued their recommendations aimed at cutting the deficit by reducing spending, eliminating tax breaks and modifying Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
But the commission's final report must win support from 14 of the commission's 18 members before it can be officially submitted to Congress for a vote, according to a mandate imposed by Obama.
The recommendations have drawn skepticism from both sides of the political spectrum, with Republicans rejecting proposed tax hikes and Democrats chafing at prospects for altering the Social Security retirement system or the Medicare and Medicaid healthcare programs for the elderly and poor.
But Bowles and Simpson told MSNBC they will issue the report regardless of how many votes it wins.
"We aren't going to make a whitewash. We aren't going to make it softer than it is today. It's going to be a tough report. If we get 14 votes, great. If we don't, then by God, we'll put it out there," Bowles said.
Added Simpson: "We will issue the report. We've told the administration."
The pair appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" talk show program.
Bowles warned lawmakers not to ignore the recommendations, which also call for defense cuts and a hike in the gasoline tax but would reduce tax rates overall.
"They will be severely penalized if they take a walk and don't make these tough decisions and don't get real," said Bowles, predicting that no meaningful action to reduce the burgeoning deficit would bring "absolute disaster."
Voter concern about the federal deficit and mounting U.S. government debt helped Republicans oust the Democrats as the majority party in the House of Representatives in the November 2 elections.
But much of the debate since election day has focused on eliminating spending provisions known as earmarks, cutting waste and fraud, and trimming foreign assistance.
Simpson and Bowles will seek commission approval for their recommendations by December 1. They said Friday they expect the commission to meet again soon after Congress returns following next week's Thanksgiving holiday.
(Editing by Eric Beech)
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