Letter to Paul Ryan: There was No Fiscal Commission Report

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Written by Dean Baker   
Tuesday, 20 March 2012 13:09

The Honorable Paul Ryan
1233 Longworth House Office Building
Washington DC, 20515-4901

Dear Representative Ryan:

Your new budget plan repeatedly refers to the recommendations of the President’s Fiscal Commission, also known as the Bowles- Simpson Commission and officially as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This is surprising considering that as a member of the commission, you should be aware of the fact that there were no official recommendations from the commission.

As established by President Obama, the commission was created in February if 2010 under co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson and 16 other members. As you may recall, the commission was to issue a report on December 1, 2010. For this report to be adopted, 14 of the 18 members had to vote to approve it. The commission failed to produce a report that had the support of the necessary 14 members by its deadline. On December 3rd, it did take an informal poll of the 18 members on the report of the co-chairs, which received the support of 11 members (not including you). This meant that there was no official document agreed upon and adopted by the commission.

Just as a bill in the Senate needs at least 60 votes to get through a filibuster and most juries must reach unanimity to render a verdict, the rules establishing the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform clearly specified that a commission report must get the support of 14 of the 18 commission members. The report of the co-chairs did not reach this target; therefore it is simply the report of the co-chairs, not the commission. I hope that you will clarify this point when discussing the report in the future and correct the wording in the on-line version of your budget plan.