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Obama agenda: Deficit commission's delay

“Leaders of President Obama's fiscal commission have drafted a new plan to rebalance the federal budget that would cut government spending even deeper than their original proposal, while offering more help to some retirees. But they decided Tuesday to delay a final vote on the package, as they struggled to build a convincing bipartisan consensus,” the Washington Post reports.

Can the deficit commission get the 14 out of 18 votes it needs to move the final proposal to Congress? It won’t be easy. The New York Times: “Among the lawmakers, the Republicans generally oppose the chairmen’s draft plan because of its tax increases for upper-income Americans. The elected Republicans on the panel are Senators Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Michael D. Crapo of Idaho, and Representatives Dave Camp of Michigan, Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Jeb Hensarling of Texas. The elected Democrats on the commission are resisting the scale of proposed reductions from future health care and Social Security programs, according to people familiar with the discussions. Those Democrats are Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Max Baucus of Montana and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, and Representatives Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Xavier Becerra of California, and John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina.”

“While the three House Republicans are said by people involved in the deliberations to be unbending in their opposition to the blueprint developed by the chairmen, the three Senate Republicans are not. Similarly, except for Ms. Schakowsky, the Democratic House and Senate members are said to be still negotiating with one another and the chairmen toward some compromise. ‘Regardless of how the vote turns out,’ Mr. Bowles said at a news conference on Tuesday, he and Mr. Simpson will have won by demonstrating the difficult choices to be made on taxes and spending. ‘The era of deficit denial in Washington is over,’ he said.”

The Boston Globe: “Ending a ban on gays serving openly in the armed services would not harm long-term military effectiveness, the Pentagon said yesterday in a long-awaited report that is expected to speed a vote on the repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy… That call shifted the focus to moderate members of the Senate, including Scott Brown of Massachusetts, who had said they wanted to read the report before voting on whether to end the policy.” Brown said, “I haven’t looked at it. As soon as I get back to the office and get a free minute, I’ll start digesting it.”

The New York Daily News: “Gates pressed the Senate to enact repeal quickly in the lameduck session, saying that avoiding the issue would amount to "rolling the dice" on the courts taking action.”

The New York Times’ Leonhardt explains why Democrats and the Obama White House are negotiating from a position of weakness on extending the Bush tax cuts. “If they cannot come up with a plan that can win 60 votes in the Senate, which means at least two Republican votes, Republicans can filibuster any bill. All of the tax cuts would then expire on Dec. 31. When the new Republican House majority arrives in January, it will be able to make its first order of business a retroactive tax cut — forcing President Obama and Senate Democrats to choose between a purely Republican plan and an across-the-board tax increase.”

Look who stopped by yesterday… “Former President Jimmy Carter paid a surprise visit to President Obama while at the White House on Tuesday,” The Hill writes.