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Split in Panel Could Delay Deficit Report

Associated Press

The advisory commission on the federal budget deficit, beset by divisions among its members, may delay issuing its recommendations for several months, the co-chairman of the group said Tuesday.

Democrat Robert S. Strauss, one of two leaders of the bipartisan National Economic Commission, said that the group’s report may not be issued until March 1 or later.

The commission’s original goal had been to issue its recommendations by Dec. 21, in time to influence the first budget submitted by the incoming administration.

Strauss, in a speech to an investment conference sponsored by the American Stock Exchange and in later comments to reporters, said that the timing of the panel’s report would be left to the next President.

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Breaking Political Deadlock

Proponents of the 12-member commission, created by Congress last December, believed that it offered the best hope of breaking through the seven-year political deadlock over reducing the federal budget deficit. The commission was expected to come up with a package of spending cuts and tax increases that would be acceptable to the White House and Congress.

Congress gave the commission a deadline of March 1 for issuing its recommendations, but the law allows the next President to extend that deadline to Sept. 1.

However, at its first meeting last May, the commission announced that it had agreed to an accelerated schedule and would produce a final report by Dec. 21 so its recommendations could help shape the President-elect’s first budget submission to Congress.

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Strauss’ comments Tuesday were the first public confirmation of reports that the commission would not meet that self-imposed deadline.

‘Stormy Commission’

Strauss conceded that the panel was a “rather stormy commission” and said “we are going to have a hard time” coming up with an acceptable package.

He said that, although he was concerned, he was not pessimistic about the commission’s drafting a deficit-reduction plan by the March 1 deadline or by Sept. 1, if the new President decides to extend the deadline.


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