Gibbs Defends Need for Bipartisan Fiscal Panel

Posted February 1, 2010 at 4:56pm

The White House is already defending its push for a bipartisan fiscal commission — a core piece of President Barack Obama’s latest plan to rein in federal spending — despite its lack of support from Congressional Republican leaders.White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Monday said he didn’t know why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) haven’t endorsed the panel, which would be charged with finding ways to cut spending and possibly raise taxes as a way to bring down the deficit.He acknowledged that GOP lawmakers may try to score political points by preventing the commission from advancing.“We’ve heard from some quarters that Republicans just may not appoint anybody. Well, tell me how you’re going to solve the big problems of this country if … one political party is not going to join in working on that. It’s just, it’s not going to happen,— Gibbs said. “In order to get this passed, we’re going to need both parties to work together.—The White House spokesman dismissed the idea that the bipartisan commission, which would not be legislatively binding, is a “cop-out— for Democrats unable to make tough decisions despite controlling Congress and the White House.“I don’t think it’s a cop-out because what the president will propose is that Democrats and Republicans should work together,— Gibbs said. “We’re not going to make progress unless we have sign-offs from Republicans.—Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said his office is still reviewing the proposal.“We certainly don’t want to give Washington Democrats political cover to raise taxes, especially in a struggling economy,— Steel said.McConnell said Sunday that he is suspicious of the timing of Obama’s push for the issue, given that it came up in the days leading up to his budget being released and just before the Senate was slated to vote on legislation calling for a similar fiscal panel. “There’s a lot of skepticism now … and the president endorses this commission a couple of days before the vote. Where was he a year ago when we were talking to him about it?— McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.—McConnell has backed bills similar to the bill that hit the floor last week; it would have created a bipartisan fiscal commission led by Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). But he joined with other Republicans in opposing the bill — a move that Obama has threatened to counter with an executive order in order to keep the proposal alive.