More Deficit Action

A special bipartisan panel on the budget deficit set up by President Obama will lay out its plans today, even though the top Democrat and Republican on the commission admit their plan probably won’t gain the support of fellow members.

“At least we got two votes,” said former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), who said it’s time for both parties to accept the difficult and unpleasant choices that have to be made on the budget.

But Simpson told reporters he knows that opponents will throw all kinds of “crap” at the plans in order to kill it.

“They’re going to rip this thing to shreds and do it with zeal,” said the always affable and blunt Republican.

Meanwhile, deficit panel chair Erskine Bowles was saying much the same as Simpson, expecting between “2 and 14 votes” on their combination of spending cuts and revenues increases designed to save trillions of dollars for Uncle Sam.

But Bowles said even if 14 of the 18 members of the panel don’t agree on a plan – the number needed to force a vote in the House and Senate – this effort will have been worth it, simply because more people now understand the stark choices involved.

“The era of deficit denial in Washington is over,” said Bowles, who compared the growing federal debt to a “cancer” that will destroy the country “from within.”

Bowles and Simpson had unexpectedly released their draft plan before Thanksgiving, knowing full well that members of each party would find something in it to oppose, and it has been sharply attacked, especially in more liberal circles.

Their latest move was to say they would finish their plan by a December 1 deadline imposed by the President, but that the panel would not vote on it until this Friday.

The two extra days to allow commission members to decipher the details probably won’t matter, as each party will likely pay attention only to the details that fit their respective economic and budgetary plans.

“It’s not going to be some kind of watered down version,” Bowles said when asked about changes made to his original chairman’s proposal.

Reports indicate the revised plan is not much different than the original one, which stirred strong opposition in both parties, as Democrats decried efforts to reign in the costs of Social Security and Medicare and Republicans bashed the idea of raising revenue by closing advantageous loopholes in the tax code.

The debate is a reminder that it will take a mix of ideas from both parties to reduce spending and cut the deficit, though neither side really wants to do that.