Obama's appointment of Stern to fiscal commission draws business fire

Business groups opposed to the card-check bill that has dominated fights between business and labor for more than a year railed against the decision to appoint Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“Either the White House doesn’t read the newspaper or simply doesn’t care, but naming Andy Stern as a member of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility doesn’t pass the laugh test,” said Katie Packer, executive director of the Workforce Fairness Institute.

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Obama on Friday announced Stern’s appointment  to the commission, which is to propose a fiscal reform package that will rein in the country's $12 trillion debt.

Obama is asking Congress to consider the panel's recommendations after the midterm election, and Democratic leaders in both chambers have said they would allow recommendations to be voted on.

Stern is seen as the labor leader closest to the White House, as evidenced by logs marking his frequent visits to the West Wing.

Unions have been skeptical of the debt panel, warning it could lead to entitlement reforms that should first be fully considered by elected officials.

Stern in a statement said that his union's members "expect that, in times of need, the critical safety nets that served their grandparents and parents will be secure both for themselves and future generations."

Obama also appointed former White House Budget Director Alice Rivlin and two business executives to the fiscal commission on Friday.

The four appointees will join the commission's co-chairmen, former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), whom Obama named last week.

Congressional leaders will name lawmakers to fill the remaining 12 spots on the 18-member panel. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) chose Sens. Max Baucus (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Dick Durbin (Ill.) to represent Senate Democrats. House Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have yet to name their members.

Obama's six appointees are decidedly centrist, except for Stern.

The two business leaders to join the panel are David Cote, CEO and chairman of Honeywell, and Ann Fudge, former CEO of advertising agency Young & Rubicam Brands.

Cote, who has traditionally voted Republican and considers himself a moderate, helped sell the stimulus last year to the business community. Fudge serves on General Electric's board of directors and has also been an executive at General Mills and Kraft. She is the only black member of the panel so far.

Rivlin worked with Bowles to craft balanced budgets in the Clinton administration. She was also the first director of the Congressional Budget Office in the 1970s and served as vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve in the late 1990s. Rivlin is also serving as co-chairwoman of a bipartisan debt panel created by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

Rivlin suggested Friday that deficits, expected to average $850 billion over the next decade, won't fall to sustainable levels unless lawmakers reform entitlement programs.

"It is clear that the debt problem cannot be solved by spending cuts, tax increases or economic growth alone," Rivlin said in a statement. "The U.S. budget is on an unsustainable trajectory and complacency is no longer an option."