Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday appointed three heavyweights from his caucus to serve on President Barack Obama's fiscal commission.
Reid tapped Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate Budget Committee Chairman (D-N.D.) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) to serve on the panel tasked with developing a plan to bring down the $12.3 trillion national debt.
The president said that the commission can consider everything, including new taxes, spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs, in order to reach his goal of balancing the federal budget except for debt interest payments by 2015. Obama is asking Congress to consider the panel's recommendations.
Obama will appoint six people to the 18-member panel and up to four can come from the same party.
Leaders in Congress will choose the other 12 members, with three coming from the Republican and Democratic caucus in each chamber.
Reid is the first congressional leader to announce his picks. The majority leader said that he would make sure that the panel's recommendations, which are non-binding, receive votes in the Senate.
Both Baucus and Conrad are noted centrists, a group of lawmakers that has made debt and deficit issues a priority.
Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) was also considered for a spot on the panel, but said that he wouldn't serve because of his duties as chairman of the Appropriations Committee and because he is up for re-
election this year, Inouye's office said. Inouye supported adding an appropriator to the panel, and Reid did that by picking Durbin, the Inouye aide said.
Obama last week selected former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) to head the panel.
The president is "strongly considering" former Clinton White House budget director Alice Rivlin, Service Employees International Union President Andy Stern and Honeywell CEO and Chairman David Cote to fill remaining slots, an administration official said.