By Walter Alarkon - 01/25/10 11:50 PM EST
The Senate is expected on Tuesday to reject an amendment creating a fiscal commission that would recommend deficit-cutting measures Congress would have to vote on.
The vote would prompt President Barack Obama and centrist Democrats to turn to their backup plan of creating a commission by executive order, a move that could be announced by the president as early as Wednesday in his State of the Union address.
Obama announced his support for a commission over the weekend, but it’s not expected to be enough to deliver the 60 Senate votes necessary for passage, according to Senate aides.
Senior senators from both parties oppose it. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) argued Monday that it would undermine the power of elected officials, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Sunday it would lead to tax hikes.
The amendment would attach legislation creating the commission to a $1.9 trillion federal debt ceiling increase.
Supporters say creating the panel is the only way to get lawmakers to deal with the country’s $12.3 trillion debt. They argue Congress isn’t willing to take up politically perilous measures such as tax increases, spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs that are needed to reduce trillion-dollar annual deficits.
Centrist Democrats led by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) struck a tentative deal last week with the White House to have Obama issue an executive order creating his own version of a bipartisan commission. It would also be tasked with producing a package of fiscal reforms.
Conrad said last week that it was the “next best option” to a statutory panel.
But Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the co-sponsor of the amendment creating the commission, has said he would not serve on an Obama-created commission because it would be too weak.
If approved by Congress and signed into law by Obama, the commission would have the power to force the full House and Senate to vote on its recommendations. It could also limit floor amendments and require that amendments be approved only with the support of supermajorities in both chambers. A commission created by executive order would lack those powers.