We’re in the process now of trying to get a better understanding of what Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson are up to exactly in releasing this draft of recommendations for spending cuts and tax hikes. Here’s what we do know:
The commission’s final recommendations aren’t due until December 1. The commission can basically recommend whatever it wants, but if 14 of the 18 commissioners agree with the recommendations, then Congress has agreed to take them up. So that’s basically the key charge of the commission co-chairs: create enough of a consensus plan that 14 commissioners can support it. Without that, the recommendations become just another report gathering dust on a shelf.So today Bowles and Simpson unveiled their proposal to the commission in a closed meeting. To paraphrase, the reactions of commissioners leaving the meeting ranged from ‘over my dead body’ to ‘like hell we are.’ Bowles and Simpson followed up the private commission meeting with a public press conference. We’ll have more on that soon.
As I said, it’s all a little murky still but it appears that the co-chairs are laying down their markers to get the ball rolling on negotiating among the commissioners a series of final recommendations that will achieve a consensus. The commission has been at work now for months, but the real work will be over the next 3 weeks as they try to hammer out some kind of agreement amongst themselves. This appears to be the opening salvo in that effort.