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Was “Obama’s” Bipartisan Deficit Commission Doomed from the Start?

Today, President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission failed to secure a sufficient votes from its members, so it didn’t release on official report. The chance that it would have even reached the required 14-vote minimum was remote for a variety of reasons. For example:

Selecting Alan Simpson, a cranky old jerk who loves to fight, as co-chair for a project that is supposed to build broad popular compromise does not help.

And Republicans doctrinal opposition to tax increases in any form makes things like a reasonable middle-point compromise nearly impossible. Probably more important, Congressional Republicans have time and time again proven that reducing the debt is simply not a priority, what with their decision not to pay for Medicare Part D, their support for two unfunded wars, and the recent fight to extend the budget-busting Bush tax cuts for the rich.

Republicans saying no to anything with “Obama” in the title

In retrospect, however, I think the main reason “Obama’s” deficit commission was always doomed to fail was even simpler. In this political environment, I don’t think Congressional Republicans would ever help pass what could be claimed as a historic bipartisan achievement anything labeled the “Obama something.” Even if Republicans liked most of the proposal, it would still be much smarter politics to make minor changes and claim most of the credit by introducing it in the House as the “Boehner-Ryan” plan. Same great austerity taste, but with a new, fancy, pro-Republican label. Why let Obama take credit?

Don’t be surprised if they do something like that for many parts of the basic Simpson-Bowles proposal (so, policy-wise, seniors citizens are not out of the woods when it comes to Medicare and Social Security cuts).

I take Mitch McConnell entirely at his word when he said his single most important goal is not reducing the deficit but making sure Obama is a “one term president.” Helping Obama pass a big, bipartisan proposal in such a way that lets Obama claim most of the credit for it doesn’t advance that goal.

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at