WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama's four appointments to the bipartisan debt panel he established last week include the head of manufacturing giant Honeywell and a former top-ranking Federal Reserve official.
Obama on Friday named David Cote, chief executive officer at Honeywell International, and former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alice Rivlin to the panel. He also appointed Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, and Ann Fudge, the former chief executive officer of Young & Rubicam Brands.
"For far too long, Washington has avoided the tough choices necessary to solve our fiscal problems," Obama said in a statement announcing the new members. He thanked them for being willing to serve.
Obama established the panel last week to find a way to get the country's massive budget deficit under control. He named Democratic former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, as co-chairs, and gave himself the authority to appoint four additional members to the 18-person panel.
Republican and Democratic leaders can each appoint six additional members to the panel. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made his selections earlier in the week, naming Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois to the panel. The rest of the commission is yet to be named.
With the total federal debt next year expected to exceed $14 trillion – about $47,000 for every U.S. resident – the 18-member commission is charged with coming up with a plan by Dec. 1 to reduce the government's annual deficits to 3 percent of the national economy by 2015.
But the panel is a weak substitute for what Obama really wanted – a commission created by Congress that could force lawmakers to vote on remedies to reduce the debt. That proposal was defeated by lawmakers, leading Obama to use his executive powers to create a commission that can make recommendations to Congress, but can't require a vote.