Support erodes for deficit panel plan

Baucus joins ranks of critics

Six members of President Obama’s deficit commission are expected to vote on Friday against its final report, meaning the panel will not be able to submit any recommendations to Congress for action.

Late Thursday, Sen. Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, announced his opposition, joining one House Democrat, three House Republicans and one of Mr. Obama’s appointees, who also are expected to vote against it, leaving the 18-member panel short of the 14 votes Mr. Obama said would be needed to adopt a final report. Also late Thursday, Andrew Stern, the former president of the Service Employees International Union, announced his opposition.

Still, a majority is expected to back the blueprint laid out by the panels co-chairmen, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, to gain control of the country’s finances by imposing unpopular spending cuts and doing away with popular tax breaks.

“We’re at a day of reckoning,” said Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and commission member, earlier Thursday as he announced his support, along with Sen. Michael D. Crapo, Idaho Republican. “The time for action is now. The threat is real. It’s urgent. We cannot wait for another election. We cannot wait until we get more of what we want.”

As of late Thursday, five of Mr. Obama’s six appointees to the commission said they’ll back the final recommendations, as have five senators.

Four House lawmakers are expected to oppose the plan, as well as Mr. Baucus. And ABC reported Thursday night that Mr. Obama’s sixth appointee, Mr. Stern, the former SEIU chief, was expected to oppose the plan.

That leaves two House Democrats as the undecided members, and leaves the commission short of the needed supermajority.

Mr. Baucus‘ defection was the key blow. The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said he couldn’t accept the proposal’s cuts in Social Security and health care benefits and a recommendation to raise gasoline taxes.

Higher gas taxes would “paint a big red target on rural America,” Mr. Baucus said in a statement.

When Mr. Obama formed the commission by executive order in February, he required that 14 of the 18 members support any final recommendations, in order to ensure bipartisanship.

In the end, bipartisan opposition will doom it - though a bipartisan consensus is growing around the co-chairmen’s tax-reform proposal to simplify and broaden the tax base by eliminating or scaling back roughly $1.1 trillion in popular tax breaks to help offset the cost of lower individual and corporate tax rates.

“The reforms presented in this package are some of the most dramatic and extensive reforms I have seen in my time,” Mr. Crapo told reporters. “It will help us move to a more fair, less complex, less costly and more competitive tax code that will generate a stronger, more robust and dynamic economy.”

What is clear is that Mr. Coburn and Mr. Crapo are now in the cross hairs of anti-tax groups.

Ryan Ellis, tax-policy director for Americans for Tax Reform, criticized the two Republican lawmakers for violating the group’s anti-tax pledge.

“This plan very consciously shifts the emphasis from cutting spending [which is what the election was about] to deficit reduction, which in Washington means ‘tax hike,’ ” Mr. Ellis said.

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