Key lawmakers to WH debt panel: Be transparent

The main House sponsors of a bipartisan fiscal commission urged the White House debt panel to be responsive to the public.

"With such a short time to deliver, we encourage to move as quickly as possible to engage the public and begin this important national dialogue," wrote Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) in a letter to the White House commission's co-chairmen.

"We also urge you to immediately make available for the public a mailing address and phone number for the commission, as well as contact information for individual commissioners and the support staff," Wolf and Cooper added.

Wolf and Cooper had authored a bill that would have created a commission similar to the one created by President Barack Obama via executive order in January. The White House panel, like Wolf and Cooper's, includes members of both parties and economic experts who will consider spending cuts, new taxes and reforms to entitlement programs to try to produce a plan reining in the growth of federal debt.

Wolf and Cooper said they were concerned that the White House commission would be rushed, wouldn't be responsive to the public and would have its final recommendations ignored by lawmakers. The Wolf-Cooper commission required its members spend a year holding town meetings and Congress to take up-or-down votes on the panel's proposals.

"Without those critical components, there exists the distinct probability that any deficit commission’s work will be a wasted  exercise with its report destined to collect dust on a bookshelf," Wolf and Cooper wrote.

The White House panel has scheduled its first meeting for April 27. The commission's co-chairmen, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R -Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, and several of its members will appear at a fiscal summit in Washington with other economic leaders on April 28.

Obama's executive order calls on the panel to finish its work in December, and Democratic leaders in both chambers have promised to hold votes on the measure later that month.