- The Washington Times - Friday, March 12, 2010

Congressional Republicans named six conservative opponents of tax increases to President Obama’s debt commission Friday, and the panel now only awaits House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s picks before it can get started.

The panel’s recommendations, which are not binding on Congress, are due by Dec. 1.

Republicans named Sens. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Mike Crapo of Idaho and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, and Reps. Dave Camp of Michigan, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Jeb Hensarling of Texas to serve on the 18-member commission, and several of them said they would push for spending cuts rather than tax increases to try to bring the country’s finances into balance.

“I hope this commission concludes it is time for politicians in Washington to make sacrifices,” Mr. Coburn said in a statement. “The American people are already sacrificing enough. Families should not be forced to pay higher taxes in order to help politicians avoid tough choices when the federal government is wasting at least $350 billion a year.”

Mr. Obama and Senate Democrats have also named their members, leaving just Mrs. Pelosi’s picks from among House Democrats to fill out the panel.

“The speaker is discussing with a number of members who have expressed interest in serving on the commission because of the their commitment to fiscal responsibility,” said her spokesman, Drew Hammill. “The speaker will make those appointments when she has completed those discussions.”

The White House called congressional Republicans’ move a good step, and spokesman Robert Gibbs said the administration hopes Mrs. Pelosi’s names “will be coming forward soon.”

Mr. Obama tapped former Clinton chief of staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican from Wyoming, to be co-chairmen of the commission. Among his other picks is Andrew Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, who has said he will work to protect public programs such as Medicare and Social Security from cuts.

Mr. Obama has refused to rule out program cuts and tax increases, unlike his predecessor, President George W. Bush, who launched a commission to fix Social Security with the admonition that it not include tax increases.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, had written asking Mr. Obama to move the commission’s deadline to Oct. 1, so lawmakers would have the recommendations in hand before this year’s congressional elections, and called on the president to make sure the meetings are open to the public.

The White House has said it supports openness for the commission, though it has not responded favorably to Mr. Boehner’s call for a speedier timeline.

A bipartisan group of senators had tried to create a commission with the force of law, which would have required Congress to vote on its recommendations. That effort failed in the Senate, so Mr. Obama used an executive order to create a non-binding commission.