White House begins groundwork to avoid blame for tax increases

Jon Ward Contributor
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President Obama on Thursday indicated that tax increases on people who make less than $250,000 a year will be on the table when a deficit commission makes its recommendations later this year on how to resolve the nation’s fiscal imbalances.

“Everything’s on the table. That’s how this thing is going to work,” Obama said Thursday, moments after signing an executive order creating the 18-member commission.

But the White House has already begun to lay the groundwork for their argument that such a recommendation by the panel should not be blamed on the president, who vowed during his campaign not to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $250,000.

“The president will not sit on the commission and the options they present will not necessarily reflect administration policy,” a White House official told The Daily Caller.

Obama’s comment is consistent with past remarks he’s made that the commission will not begin its work with “preconditions,” a word he used to knock Republicans during his remarks Thursday. Many Republicans are skeptical of the panel and do not want to participate unless tax increases are off the table.

Many economic experts see no alternative to raising taxes across the board in order to reduce the federal deficit, which is projected to hit $1.6 trillion this year.

Conservatives, however, see the problem mostly as a spending problem, and are skeptical of the president’s commission because they believe it will inevitably lead to higher taxes.

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican and head of the Republican Study Committee, called the panel “a political solution to a glaring math problem.”

“Since the president has unfairly given Democrats and liberals an over representation on the commission, the odds are high that its recommendations will be heavy on tax increases and light on spending reductions,” Price said.

An increase in taxes would be a potentially lethal political issue in the 2012 election, when Obama will presumably run for reelection.

Obama thanked panel co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson for taking on “a difficult and perhaps thankless task,” and said the former Clinton White House chief of staff and Republican Senator from Wyoming were “taking on the impossible.”

Obama will appoint four other members of the commission, and Democrats and Republicans in Congress will appoint six members each. The panel will be required to report recommendations to Congress by Dec. 1.

“The Commission shall propose recommendations designed to balance the budget, excluding interest payments on the debt, by 2015,” reads the president’s executive order.

Their recommendations will not be binding or even require a vote, however. A congressionally chartered commission that would have had binding authority to require an up or down vote by Congress was voted down in the Senate last month.

Brad Dayspring, a spokesman for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said his boss and Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, sent a letter to the president two weeks ago “offering to help force votes in the Congress on his proposed spending reductions.”

“Combine this commission announcement, which apparently will report after the election, with the fact that he has not responded on the offer to work together to force votes on his own proposals and it is enough to lead one to believe that this all for political show,” Dayspring said.