President Barack Obama will issue an executive order creating a bipartisan debt-reduction panel "very shortly," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday.
Obama and other members of his economic team are still "working on some of the specifics" of that commission, Gibbs told reporters during his daily press briefing. The White House is also "making phone calls to Republican leaders," in the hope that some GOP members will join the president's forthcoming effort.
Ultimately, the press secretary did not say whether any Republican lawmakers had already consented to serve on the new panel. " But Gibbs nonetheless took a pre-emptive shot at the party, which he suggested was responsibile for the bipartisan commission's defeat in the Senate last month.
"I have not noticed in the intervening weeks anything less than pretty voiceferous comments about our fiscal situation," Gibbs said, adding seven Senate Republicans who once supported the bill to create the commission inexplicably voted against it in January.
"I can't imagine that Republicans would at one minute say this is such an important issue, and in the next minute say, 'We cant participate in a commission that will help solve what I said a minute ago was an important issue.'"
The debt-reduction commission has become a serious talking point for Democrats, who blame Republicans for its month-long delay. A proposal to create a stronger version of the panel once had considerable support among both parties in the Senate -- as well as the president, who endorsed the idea -- but the bill ultimately failed by a few votes.
The White House has since taken up the commission's banner, seeking to establish it by fiat. But the panel would be markedly less strict than its congressional predecessor, as it could not legally force Congress to vote on its recommendations, as the Senate's bill would.
While some Republicans have lamented that condition, and others have opposed the executive order because of it, Gibbs said he hoped they would join the effort anyway.
"It's our strong hope that Republicans world agree to participate in a committee that many of their members strongly advocate," he said.