White House Mum on Debt Commission

Although suggestions from the debt commission are gradually becoming public even before its final report is voted on and submitted to the President, the White House is giving no clue as to what it will do with the final report of the panel co-chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R.-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles. 

At yesterday’s regular press briefing at the White House, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs repeatedly dodged questions on how the President would react to the commission’s recommendations, which are expected to reach his desk by Friday.

“[A]s you know, the commission is meeting today,” Gibbs told my colleagues and me, “The President looks forward to reviewing their work at that conclusion of their votes, which I think will be toward the end of the week, and evaluate their proposals and those votes as we move forward and put together a budget of our own for next year.  So let me not get too far out on the commission until they’ve had a chance to complete their work, as we’ve said before.”

Noting that Gibbs had repeatedly underscored the President’s commitment to extending tax cuts for middle-income wage-earners and that “our goal is to ensure that middle families don’t see their tax bills go up on New Year’s Day,” I asked whether the Administration would commit outright to rejecting the much-rumored recommendation of the commission that the gasoline tax be raised by 15 cents per gallon.

“Again, I’m going to reiterate,” Gibbs told me, “this is an independent commission that was set up by this White House to look into our long-term fiscal crisis, and we’re going to let the commission do their work.” 

Following up on my question, Christy Parsons of the Chicago Tribune asked Gibbs if the White House would weigh in “on the report at all in advance of the vote on Friday?  The report is out, and the co-chairs say it’s not going to change at all.”

“Not that I’m aware of,” said the President’s top spokesman. 

As to what would happen “if you don’t get a recommendation that has 14 votes from the commission,” Gibbs told Parsons: “Again, I don’t want to get into guesswork on what some of these votes — how they may end up, what may happen, what evaluation some in here, including the President, might give to certain vote counts.  I think we’ll have a chance to obviously examine the full record of their work at the conclusion of their meeting later this week.”