Deficit reduction commission bailed out by White House

Jonathan Strong Jonathan Strong, 27, is a reporter for the Daily Caller covering Congress. Previously, he was a reporter for Inside EPA where he wrote about environmental regulation in great detail, and before that a staffer for Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA). Strong graduated from Wheaton College (IL) with a degree in political science in 2006. He is a huge fan of and season ticket holder to the Washington Capitals hockey team. Strong and his wife reside in Arlington.
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Less than two weeks ago, a blue-ribbon commission charged with solving the nation’s staggering national debt seemed, like the country itself, to be running out of money.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid indicated in a May 28 letter that the commission had complained to him about inadequate resources. Commission members griped they didn’t have enough money to hold hearings around the country, according to a report by Tax Analysts, a non-profit website.

But now the commission’s executive director, Bruce Reed, says its budget issues have been resolved, thanks to help from the White House.  Reed, a former top aide to then-President Bill Clinton, says the administration dispatched 10-15 aides from the Treasury Department and several other agencies to meet the commission’s needs.

“We’ve got all the people we can handle,” Reed told the Daily Caller. “It’s plenty!” he said about the commission’s $500,000 budget.

Reed also said there were other reasons besides insufficient funds the commission couldn’t hold hearings around the country. “That’s not really an option for us anyway,” Reed explained, noting the looming Dec. 1 deadline for the commission’s recommendations and that most of the commission members are busy in Washington tending to their jobs in Congress.

While the commission, whose mission is to reduce the deficit, was trying to quickly disabuse the idea it was seeking more money, some Republicans were jumping on the issue to paint the President’s team of fiscal hawks as having budget woes of their own.

“Irony alert. Sometimes there are simply no words.  If the Administration wants to reduce the deficit, let’s start cutting spending NOW,” one GOP aide said.

Reid’s May 28 letter to President Obama said he had talked to commission members who “expressed concern that the commission could use additional support to help it work more effectively.”

“In particular, they informed me that the staff resources available to assist the commission are very limited. This is concerning, especially given the breadth and difficulty of the issues that the commission must address,” the Nevada Democrat wrote.

“We do have a lean budget by design,” Reed conceded, but said the relatively meager budget for the commission will suffice because the main obstacle it faces is garnering the will to make politically difficult decisions, not devise complicated new solutions. “We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Reed said the budget woes facing the country are daunting. But he was hopeful the commission could succeed where others could fail for two reasons. First, the American electorate is far more concerned about deficits than Washington, and second, European budget crises threatening to veer out of control have added a new sense of urgency to the issue.