Obama, Reid Eye New Commission As Way to Achieve Tax Hikes

By Susan Jones | August 1, 2011 | 5:58 AM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., leaves the office of Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Capitol Hill on Sunday, July 31, 2011.(AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

(CNSNews.com) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said on Sunday that his idea for a 12-member commission will be “key” to additional “deficit reduction measures.”

And President Obama on Sunday repeated that he considers tax hikes essential to deficit reduction.

The tentative debt-ceiling agreement struck Sunday night creates a 12-member panel to be evenly divided between U.S. representatives and senators – half Republican, half Democrat. The panel will look for ways to cut the budget deficit another $1.5 trillion over ten years.

According to the Associated Press, any plan approved by a majority of the committee would receive a vote in both the House and the Senate. If the panel deadlocks or fails to produce at least $1.2 trillion in additional cuts, or if Congress fails to enact its recommendations, the White House budget office would impose spending cuts across much of the federal budget, including the Pentagon, domestic agency budgets and farm subsidies. Medicaid, and Social Security and Medicare benefits would be exempted.

President Obama clearly expects the panel to consider tax hikes as part of those “deficit reduction measures.” In remarks Sunday night, he called the 12-member commission an “important” part of the tentative debt deal.

President Barack Obama speaks from the White House briefing room on Sunday, July 31, 2011, about a deal being reached to raise the debt limit. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Over the next few months, Obama said, “I’ll continue to make a detailed case to these lawmakers about why I believe a balanced approach is necessary to finish the job.”

Obama’s “balanced approach” means tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, including small business owners.

Reid said he and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell “agree” that Congress must set the nation on the path to fiscal sustainability. “This commission will assure we undertake that responsibility,” Reid said.

“When I conceived of this commission, I knew it was important that it achieve real results. And it will be essential to choose members with open minds willing to consider every option – even when those options are tough pills to swallow for both parties.”

According to Reid, “Cooperation is the only way forward.”

In negotiations up to this point, Republicans have successfully insisted that tax hikes not be part of any deficit-reduction deal.