UNC system President Erskine Bowles is in a familiar suite of offices this morning: the West Wing, complete with a Rose Garden appearance with the President.
Bowles, a Democrat who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton, is co-chairing President Barack Obama's deficit reduction commission along with former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican. The commission held its first meeting this morning.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform was organized to craft bipartisan solutions to reduce the federal deficit from last year's $1.4 trillion to $550 billion by 2015. The commission is scheduled to deliver its recommendations to Obama by December.
Obama told reporters in the Rose Garden this morning, with Bowles and Simpson, that there are no restrictions on the commission's recommendations: "Everything is on the table." The group's success, he said, will require members of both parties to make politically difficult decisions.
"In theory, there are few issues on which there is more vigorous bipartisan agreement than fiscal responsibility," Obama said. "But in practice, this responsibility for the future is often overwhelmed by the politics of the moment. It falls prey to special interest pressures, to the pull of local concerns, and to the reality familiar to every single American -- it’s a lot easier to spend a dollar than to save one. That’s what, at root, led to these exploding deficits. And that is what will lead to a day of reckoning."
The commission has 18 voting members, appointed by Obama and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. Any recommendations will require 14 out of 18 votes to ensure bipartisan support, according to a White House spokeswoman.
(Full text of Obama's remarks below.)