The federal government’s historic and growing debt load was the hot topic in Washington, D.C. this week, with President Barack Obama issuing an executive order to establish a commission to examine the problem after Congress failed to create a commission of its own.
The Obama order set up an 18-member panel to make recommendations due Dec. 1. The panel will be bipartisan, with Obama appointing Republican and Democratic co-chairs, plus three additional Democrats and one Republican, and each party’s Congressional leaders choosing six from their delegations.
Though Democrats will hold a majority of the commission seats, 14 votes will be needed to approve any recommendation coming out of the panel, meaning neither party could effectively control the commission’s final product.
Importantly, the commission’s recommendations won’t have the force of law, and Congress won’t be required to consider them. Senate’s Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Ranking Member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) had tried to create a commission that would have the authority to recommend actions on which Congress would be required to make an up or down vote, but that plan failed.
Speaking to attendees of the American Association of Crop Insurers convention this week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) invoked the country’s fiscal situation and indicated he wants to be ready with policy proposals if a reconciliation process requires farm programs be cut – a near certainty if Congress seeks to cut federal spending.
Peterson said he is considering an attempt to pass the 2012 Farm Bill in 2011 under reconciliation and, barring that, plans to be prepared to finalize a new farm bill before the 2008 Farm Bill expires in September of 2012.
Peterson has been encouraging farm groups to begin considering what they would like to see in the next farm bill and has expressed his intention to write a baseline bill.
Congress is set to return next week from President’s Day recess. The Senate is scheduled to vote Monday evening on a cloture motion for a scaled-down jobs bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the outcome of which will largely determine the Congressional schedule going forward.