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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

President Obama Establishes Bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

Names former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson as Commission Co-Chairs

WASHINGTON – Today, President Obama will sign an executive order establishing the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and announce that former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson will serve as the Commission’s co-chairs.

President Obama said, “For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems – and they won’t be solved overnight.  But under the leadership of Erksine and Alan, I’m confident that the Commission I’m establishing today will build a bipartisan consensus to put America on the path toward fiscal reform and responsibility.  I know they’ll take up their work with the sense of integrity and strength of commitment that America’s people deserve and America’s future demands.”

Former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles said, “This is one of the most critically important challenges facing the country today and it has be addressed in a bipartisan manner.  This is not a Republican or Democratic problem– this is a challenge for America.” 

Former Republican Senate Whip Alan Simpson said, “We find ourselves in a difficult fiscal situation that is unsustainable.  Whatever the results of our work, the American people are going to know about a lot more where we are headed with an honest appraisal of our situation and the courage to do something about it.  I am pleased to accept this difficult role and eager to work with Erskine and the members of the Commission.  ”

The bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will build bipartisan consensus to put forth solutions to tackle our long-ignored fiscal challenges.

  • The Commission will make recommendations that put the budget in primary balance so that we are paying for all operations and programs for the federal government (achieving deficits of about 3 percent of GDP) by 2015 and meaningfully improve the long-term fiscal outlook.
  • The Commission will be comprised of 18 total members.  12 members will be appointed by Senate/House leaders (3 each by the Republican and Democratic leaders of both chambers).  All must be sitting members of Congress.  The additional 6 members will be appointed by the President, with no more than 4 from the same political party.
  • Furthermore, 14 out of 18 votes needed to report recommendations, and recommendations must be reported to Congress by December 1, 2010. 

The executive order will be signed at the event this morning.

Since taking office, President Obama has worked to usher in a new era of responsibility in Washington.  He put forward a 2011 Budget that includes more than a $1 trillion of deficit reduction, excluding war savings, and signed into law statutory PAYGO legislation so that Congress would have to pay for what it proposes.  He ordered his administration to go line by line through the budget looking for programs that do not work or are outdated or duplicative. And the President is taking on the biggest challenge to our fiscal future -- rising health care costs -- by fighting to pass meaningful health reform legislation, and demanding that it doesn’t add a dime to our deficit.

President Obama named the following individuals as Co-Chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform:

Erskine Bowles is currently President of the University of North Carolina.  He served as White House Chief of Staff under President Clinton from 1996 to 1998.  In that capacity, Bowles brokered the last significant bipartisan budget agreement, the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, with the Republican leadership in Congress—helping to generate the first balanced budget in nearly 30 years.  He had previously served as Deputy White House Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1995 and as head of the Small Business Administration from 1993 to 1994.  Bowles has also had a long career in business, helping to found the investment firm Carousel Capital in Charlotte, North Carolina, and he was the Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate in North Carolina in both 2002 and 2004.

Alan Simpson served as a U.S. Senator from Wyoming from 1979 to 1997.  From 1985 to 1995, he was the Republican whip in the Senate, and he also chaired the Senate Finance Committee’s Subcommittee on Social Security.  During his career in the Senate, Simpson was a consistent voice for fiscal balance—for example, voting in favor the bipartisan 1990 deficit-reduction agreement. From 1997 to 2000, Simpson taught at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.  Simpson left Harvard in 2000 to return home to Cody, Wyoming, where he now practices law with his two sons.  Simpson serves on the Commission for Continuity in Government, as well as Co-Chair of Americans for Campaign Reform with several former Senate colleagues.  He served as a member of the Iraq Study group.