New Biden staffer Reed seen as playing role in deficit compromise

A centrist, Reed, had served as chief domestic policy adviser to President Clinton and was the CEO of the Democratic Leadership Council.

“Biden played the role of honest broker on the deal creating the commission and enacting pay-go as part of getting the debt limit last year and Bruce is the perfect person to help Biden perform that role in the budget debates going forward because of his experience with the fiscal commission and the credibility he has with members on both sides,” says one source who worked with Reed during the fiscal commission deliberations.

“Bruce will be a voice for deficit reduction within the administration, and if the budget process leads to negotiations on a broader budget deal, Bruce is extremely well suited to play a critical role in helping forge an agreement,” the source said.

Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who served on the commission and voted for the plan, also praised the selection of Reed.

“Bruce did an outstanding job leading the staff of the President’s Fiscal Commission. He also brings tremendous experience with him from his work at the DLC and in the Clinton Administration. Importantly, Bruce understands the threat from the nation’s long-term debt outlook and will bring an added voice for fiscal responsibility to the Administration’s internal deliberations,” Conrad said in an e-mailed statement.

Nancy Altman, the co-director Social Security Works said Monday she is worried Reed's appointment will endanger entitlement benefits. Altman opposes the debt commission's recommendation that Social Security cost of living increases be reduced and the retirement age be raised.

"I would hope that some advisers to the president and vice president would articulate and champion the view held by the vast majority of the American people -- and which I and many other experts view to be the best policy -- , that benefits should not be cut, either straightforwardly or through an increase in the retirement age; instead, the projected shortfall should be eliminated solely through additional revenue," she said.   "Sadly, this is not what Reed  is likely to espouse…. Consequently, his appointment appears to be one more voice in what I see as a misguided chorus, and the president and vice president are therefore denied a voice on the inside to argue what many experts believe is the better approach."

An administration official, however, downplayed the role that Reed will have on the debt, noting that it will only be part of his responsibilities. The source said that Jared Bernstein will continue to be Biden’s chief economic adviser.

The source said the vice president is “changing staff, not positions” and has long had a commitment to fiscal responsibility. The source noted the Obama administration’s partial domestic discretionary spending freeze, the deficit reduction that’s part of healthcare reform, the federal pay freeze and the creation of the fiscal commission itself as evidence of that commitment.