Washington (CNN) - CNN has learned President Obama is seriously considering an executive order to create a bipartisan commission that could weigh sweeping tax increases and spending cuts to popular programs like Social Security and Medicare in order to try slash the soaring federal deficit.
Documents obtained by CNN show that top advisers to the President have been privately weighing various versions of a commission and there are differing opinions about how to structure it. Officials say that some inside the administration are pushing for a narrow mandate because it's too complicated to tackle reform of the tax system and various popular federal spending programs all at once.
"Each major category of fiscal policy - Social Security, Medicare, discretionary spending, revenues - raises a complex and idiosyncratic array of policy problems and prescriptions," according to the documents detailing some of the administration's deliberations. "Achieving consensus on any one of these issues - much less all of them simultaneously - may be more than the political system can reasonably accommodate."
But officials told CNN that other advisers to the president are pushing for the commission to have a broad mandate to put all of these big issues "on the table" at the same time.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - The push to address the United States' long-term fiscal problems - and to remove the debate from the partisanship in Congress - took a step forward Wednesday.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., and the committee's top Republican, Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan task force charged with making recommendations to Congress for reining in runaway spending growth that threatens to overwhelm the federal budget.
Noting that the country's debt as a percentage of gross domestic product is on track to double by 2019, and grow more than three times that size thereafter, Conrad told reporters, "there is not a serious observer who would conclude that that is a sustainable circumstance for the United States."
The commission's main goal would be to figure out what the country needs to do to get its budget back on a more balanced track.
Specifically, the commission would suggest ways to curb spending growth - especially in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - and to boost tax revenue.
(CNN) - The field in the race for New Hampshire's open Senate seat is growing.
Conservative activist Ovide Lamontagne, a 52-year-old Manchester attorney and 1996 GOP gubernatorial nominee, will officially become a candidate Monday for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Judd Gregg, who is not running for re-election next year.
Lamontagne is filing a statement of his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. His campaign also unveiled a new Web site, Ovide2010.com, which highlights his anti-establishment and anti-Washington bid for for the Senate.
"I am running for Senate because I am ready to fight for New Hampshire taxpayers, families and businesses," says Lamontagne in a statement on his website. "I am not the establishment candidate, but, as the independent minded conservative, I am ready to lead the effort to bring fiscal sanity and fundamental reform to Washington once and for all."
Lamontagne becomes the fourth official candidate in the race for the GOP nomination, joining former state attorney general Kelly Ayotte, businessmen James Bender of Hollis and William Binnie of Rye. Rep. Paul Hodes, who represents New Hampshire's 2nd district, is the only Democrat in the race.
“This deficit is driven by us,” New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg candidly said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union when asked about the federal government’s projected $1.42 trillion operating deficit for the 2009 fiscal year.
“You talk about systemic risk. The systemic risk today is the Congress of the United States,“ the Ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King, “that we’re creating these massive debts which we’re passing on to our children. We’re going to undermine fundamentally the quality of life for our children by doing this.”
“Now you can’t blame that on [former President] George [W.] Bush,” Greg said, noting that using the Obama administration’s projections the budget deficit for the next ten years is $1 trillion per year. And Gregg said that during the same ten-year period, public debt as a percentage of gross domestic product would increase from 40 percent - which Gregg called “tolerable but still too high” - up to 80 percent.
The figures, Gregg told King, “mean we’re basically on the path to a banana-republic-type of financial situation in this country. And you just can’t do that. You can’t keep running these [federal] programs out [into the future] and not paying for them. And you can’t keep throwing debt on top of debt.”
“Standards of living will drop if we keep this up,” Gregg also said.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Sen. Judd Gregg, R-New Hampshire, noted Thursday that the $17 billion in cuts President Obama proposes in his 2010 budget would equal the operating budget of his own state for a few years. But Gregg, who almost joined the Obama administration, added the cuts are not enough.
The cuts represent "less than one half of one percent of the federal budget which will be approximately $3.5 trillion this year," Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Budget Committee, said in Senate floor speech.
"It's as if you had a vast desert of sand," Gregg said. "It's as if this were the Gobi Desert or the Sahara Desert and you came along and you took a few pieces of sand off the desert – it literally will have virtually no impact on the deficit and the debt as we move forward into the out years [of federal fiscal planning] because of the fact that while you are taking these few dollars out, which I congratulate the President for trying to do – they are adding back in massive amounts of spending."
Gregg also used an aquatic metaphor to describe the new administration's cuts.
"So, you are taking a little teeny spoonful of water out of the ocean while you are dumping a whole river into the ocean so the water levels go up and the debt levels go up and burden on our children goes up and the cost of the government and the debt of the government is and remains an unsustainable event for our nation and for future generations."
(CNN) – Sen. Judd Gregg said the proposals in President Obama’s budget “represent an extraordinary move of our government to the left.”
“It is our opinion that this plan spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much,” said Gregg, R-New Hampshire, in the weekly Republican address.
“The president to his credit is not trying to hide this; in fact he is very forthright in stating that he believes that by greatly expanding the spending, the taxing and the borrowing of our government, this will lead us to prosperity,” he said.
Gregg said he believes the way to run a sound government is by “working on limiting the growth of government” in a manner that is sustainable.
Gregg said he appreciates the president’s efforts but was concerned about where they would take the country.
“Our nation has an exceptional history of one generation passing on to the next generation a more prosperous and stronger country, but that tradition is being put at risk,” he said.
Obama chose Gregg as his pick for commerce secretary, after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination. Gregg later withdrew his name, citing "irresolvable conflicts" over the administration's stimulus bill and the upcoming 2010 census.
Full text of Republican address after the jump
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Even though he was almost a member of the new Obama administration, New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg Sunday slammed President Obama’s approach to handling the country’s fiscal outlook.
“The practical implications of this is bankruptcy for the United States,” Gregg said of the Obama’s administration’s recently released budget blueprint. “There’s no other way around it. If we maintain the proposals that are in this budget over the ten-year period that this budget covers, this country will go bankrupt. People will not buy our debt, our dollar will become devalued. It is a very severe situation.”
Gregg, known as one of the keenest fiscal minds on Capitol Hill, also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that he thought it was “almost unconscionable” for the White House to continue with its planned course on fiscal matters with unprecedented actual and projected budget deficits in the coming years.
“It is as if you were flying an airplane and the gas light came on and it said ‘you 15 minutes of gas left’ and the pilot said ‘we’re not going to worry about that, we’re going to fly for another two hours.’ Well, the plane crashes and our country will crash and we’ll pass on to our kids a country that’s not affordable.”
WASHINGTON (CNN) –– Just two weeks after withdrawing his name from consideration for Commerce Secretary, Sen. Judd Gregg has finally accepted an invitation from President Obama: The New Hampshire Republican will attend the Fiscal Responsibility Summit at the White House at the end of the month.
“Reform is urgently needed, especially as long-term entitlement spending threatens to strangle our economy, and action must be taken sooner rather than later,” Gregg said in a statement released Wednesday. “I will certainly do everything I can to work with the President and others in Congress to set a course for the long-run that addresses the issue of how we pass on to our children a government they can afford.”
Gregg, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, will join other members of Congress to help the administration develop a plan to reduce the costs of entitlement spending programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Last week, Gregg cited “irresolvable conflicts” with Obama administration policy for his decision to pull out of the nomination process.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Republican Sen. Judd Gregg is putting a final exclamation point on his withdrawal as Barack Obama’s designee for Commerce Secretary with a promise to vote against the president’s economic stimulus package.
Gregg’s office confirmed the decision Friday.
The New Hampshire senator cited the stimulus package as a primary reason for backing out of the job offer, calling the bill and potential changes to Census oversight “irresolvable conflicts for me.”
“We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy,” Gregg said in a statement Thursday.
The House approved the stimulus plan Friday afternoon, and a Senate vote is expected later in the day. Two weeks ago, Gregg voted against the Senate version of the bill.