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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press The Washington Post Allowed Senator Simpson (and Erskine Bowles?) to Misrepresent President Obama's Deficit Commission

The Washington Post Allowed Senator Simpson (and Erskine Bowles?) to Misrepresent President Obama's Deficit Commission

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Friday, 03 June 2011 04:55

Former Senator Alan Simpson, a co-chair of President Obama's deficit commission, repeatedly misrepresented the commission in a column in the Washington Post. (It is possible that the piece was co-authored by Simpson's co-chair, Erskine Bowles, a Director of Morgan Stanley. The Post's identification says, "the writers were co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.")

The article repeatedly refers to the deficit commission's report and recommendations. This is not true. The commission did not produce a report and never even voted on one. The column is presumably referring to the report of the co-chairs. This report was never submitted for a vote because it did not have the support of the necessary majority.

Comments (7)Add Comment
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written by izzatzo, June 03, 2011 6:49
Alan Simpson has also promised as part of the commission's debt reduction plan that the red state of Wyoming will return the excess of federal dollars received above that paid in as soon as he can get the information declassified as non-socialism.
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written by Professor David, June 03, 2011 10:36
I think the report needed more than a majority to be official. Otherwise your point is, as usual, right on the mark.

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written by Jerry, June 03, 2011 11:20
Former Senator Alan Simpson: "I wanna be a cowboy; I guess I always will."
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written by John Q, June 03, 2011 11:33
The deficit commission released two reports: one from the chairmen, and one from representative Jan Schakowsky.

Funny how the latter never gets mentioned. Maybe because it's too sensible?
Necessary majority
written by Mike B., June 03, 2011 1:36
The last sentence is almost correct, but ambiguous. Majority can mean the difference between the number of votes of the top vote-getter and the sum of all other votes. The final report required 14 out of 18 votes - if everyone voted, that would be a majority of at least 10 (14 to 4), so that is the necessary majority. However, if not everyone voted, you could get a majority of 10 and not have the necessary 14 votes. "Necessary number of votes" would be better.
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written by Marc, June 03, 2011 5:54
Dean,

This just isn't right.

The Fiscal Commission has a report which you can read at http://www.fiscalcommission.gov. It WAS voted in, and received 11 yes votes and 7 no votes. This was not enough to reach the 14 vote super majority requirement necessary to get fast-track consideration in the House or Senate, but it none-the-less represents support from 60% of the commission. This was no a co-chairs report, it was a majority report.

Among the yes votes included 5 Democrats -- Conrad, Durbin, Spratt, Rivlin, Bowles, 5 Republicans -- Coburn, Crapo, Gregg, Cote, Simpson, and 1 Independent -- Fudge. The no votes included the three House Republicans, two of the House Democrats, Andy Stern, and Max Baucus.

There was also two other plans -- one from Jan Schakowsky and one from Andy Stern. Neither of those plans was offered for a vote, but I imagine they would have gotten 1 vote each.
It was the report of the chairs
written by Dean, June 03, 2011 10:51
There were specific rules set up by President Obama when he established the commission that required a 14 vote majority (or super-majority) for a report to be accepted. Any report that got less than 14 votes was not a report of the commission.

As it stood, there never was a formal vote because Bowles and Simpson knew they lacked the necessary majority. 11 members had publicly indicated their support, but they never had an opportunity to formally vote on the report.

Given that the report did not have the necessary majority, and was never even formally put to a vote, it is not accurate to call it the report of the commission. It is the report of the co-chairs -- that follows the rules under which the commission was established.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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