GOP picks conservative members to serve on White House debt commission

Congressional Republicans named archconservatives to the White House fiscal commission, signaling they won't support tax increases to rein in deficits.

Senate Republicans chose Sens. Judd Gregg (N.H.), Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) as their representatives on the bipartisan panel created by President Barack Obama. The three House GOP members are Reps. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Dave Camp (Mich.) and Jeb Hensarling (Texas).

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The Republicans will join congressional Democrats and officials chosen by the Obama administration to produce a package of proposals aimed at bringing the deficit down to a sustainable level by 2015.

The panel may consider tax increases, spending cuts and entitlement reforms. As Obama has said, "everything is on the table."

But the selections announced Friday suggest Republicans won't go along with tax hikes.

“Americans are rightly concerned about the growth of government, while the rest of the country has been tightening their belts,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. “Sens. Gregg, Crapo and Coburn are serious defenders of the taxpayer, and I am confident they will provide commonsense recommendations to reduce Washington spending.”

Gregg was an obvious choice — he proposed a bipartisan fiscal commission and serves as the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee. By choosing Coburn, whose opposition to taxes and spending has earned him the nickname "Dr. No," McConnell (R-Ky.) is sending a signal that Republicans will try to hold the line on taxes.

All of the House GOP picks are also archconservatives. Ryan, Camp and Hensarling "know what it takes to address our long-term challenges while protecting taxpayers," said House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

Democrats criticized House Republicans for choosing conservative members who have backed reforms to senior entitlement programs.

"It speaks volumes about the GOP agenda for America that the three House Republican members named to the deficit commission strongly
support privatizing Social Security and all voted last year to dismantle Medicare as we know it," said Doug Thornell, spokesman for Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), a member of House Democratic leadership.

Ryan's plan to balance the budget, which has been endorsed by Hensarling, finds savings by changing entitlement programs for those
currently 55 or younger. Under Ryan's proposal, when people in that age range retire, they would be allowed to invest a third of their
Social Security benefits in private retirement accounts and would get government vouchers to buy private health insurance instead of being
put on the current Medicare system.

Deficits will average nearly $1 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. While economists and the White House argue that deficits must be at 3 percent of the economy at most to be sustainable, the deficits under Obama policies wouldn't drop below levels equal to 4 percent of the economy.

Senate Democrats have named Sens. Dick Durbin (Ill.), Max Baucus (Mont.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.) to the commission. House Democrats have yet to name their members.

President Obama has chosen former GOP Sen. Alan Simpson (Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles as the panel's co-chairmen.

This story was updated at 5:05 p.m.