Hoyer pessimistic on prospects for deficit commission's success

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) struck a pessimistic note on the blue-ribbon deficit and debt commission set to begin its work next week.

The president has tasked the bipartisan panel with coming up with formal recommendations for bringing down the country’s soaring budget deficit and national debt. Recommendations would require the support of 14 of the commission’s 18 members – a minimum that Hoyer said would not be easy to meet.

“I think one cannot be overly optimistic about getting 14 out of those 18 to agree, which is unfortunate,” he told reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday morning.

Republican leaders criticized the commission but agreed to appoint six members, and there are doubts about whether any of them would agree to the tax increases that many economists believe are unavoidable in dealing with the deficit. On the Democratic side, there is expected to be resistance to deep spending and entitlement cuts that may be necessary.

Hoyer said he had spoken with the co-chairmen of the panel, Erskine Bowles, a Democratic former chief of staff in the Clinton White House, and Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming.

“Both of them are very savvy pols and very principled individuals who are going to try to get us to some place,” Hoyer said. “Whether they can get 14 of the 18, I think they can get some good recommendations that perhaps we can utilize.”

The commission will release its findings after the November election, and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have pledged to bring them to the floor.