Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.), a Republican appointee to the president's debt commission, said he joined the panel because Democratic leaders promised that they would vote on its recommendations.
The ranking member of the Budget Committee had expressed reservations about an executive debt panel because he feared that Congress would not act upon its suggestions. Gregg co-sponsored a statutory commission with committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), but it failed to pass the Senate.
"The one thing about this commission that made me sign on was that both [Senate Majority Leader] Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Connected Commerce Council - Biden faces reporters as his agenda teeters Biden hits one-year mark in dire straits 'All or nothing' won't bolster American democracy: Reform the filibuster and Electoral Count Act MORE [D-Nev.] and the Speaker of the House, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi [D-Calif.], have said the report of this commission will get a vote, an up-and-down vote," he said on Fox News. "Now that's pretty big."
Many Republicans are skeptical of the panel designed to develop a plan to rein in the nation's $12.5 trillion debt in part because they believe it would have no teeth and would rely too heavily on tax increases.
But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSchumer requests Senate briefing on Ukraine amid Russia tensions Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law There is a bipartisan path forward on election and voter protections MORE (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) appointed several conservatives to the panel last week, indicating they intend to participate but will not support tax hikes.
The panel will include congressional Democrats, Republicans and officials chosen by Obama, and will consider tax hikes, spending cuts and entitlement reform.
The retiring senator praised the co-chairman of the commission, former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), as "sincere people who really want to do something in this area."
Gregg, who last year was tapped to be Obama's Commerce Secretary before removing his name from consideration, said that he will advocate for spending cuts.
"The issue is spending and you just can't deny it. If you're going to correct this problem, most of the effort, the vast majority of the effort has to be on the spending side of the ledger," he said.
But Gregg expressed optimism about the panel's goal.
"We're not going to solve the whole problem, but if we take a big chunk out of the unfunded liability, out of the out-year debt, that would be a huge step forward," Gregg said. "It's going to occur this year, which is also very good."