Senator: Obama favors panel on deficit

President is likely to create a commission by executive order if legislation fails, Ohio Republican says.

President Obama will likely create a commission by executive order to make recommendations to Congress on ways to reduce the deficit if a similar proposal to be considered by the Senate as early as this week fails, Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, said Tuesday after meeting with Obama.

"The concern [Obama] has is that he won't have the support that's necessary to get the commission done in the Congress," Voinovich said, noting that it was unclear if the proposal would win the 60 votes needed to pass.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has said he opposes the idea because it would give an unelected body congressional power. He would prefer the committees of jurisdiction take on the deficit problem. AARP is urging senators to reject the proposal because it believes it could hurt programs that benefit older Americans.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs declined to say whether Obama would announce action on a debt commission during the State of the Union speech. He said the president is "exploring many options in both the budget and the state of the Union."

The commission proposal, which would require Congress to take up its recommendations, is being considered on legislation that Congress needs to pass by mid-February to raise the statutory debt limit.

Voinovich added that if Congress failed to approve the proposal, he believes Obama would create a commission by executive order, although Congress would not be required to consider its recommendations.

"I expect if Congress does not take action on this issue to create a commission to deal with the issue of our growing national debt and our unbalanced budgets and tax reform then he has no choice but to do something on his own," Voinovich said.

According to sources, Vice President Biden is working on a presidential commission option in case the commission proposal fails.

Aides said congressional leaders will hold a 5 p.m. meeting with Biden at the White House to discuss the debt commission.

Biden would have to win over Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who along with ranking member Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has been adamant that the commission's recommendations must be taken up by Congress.

To that end, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Tuesday he believes House and Senate leaders will be able to work out a deal to require a deficit reduction commission's recommendation get a congressional vote.

"I think there is a way to get an executive order which would provide for votes, in either house, in both houses, under certain circumstances that are being discussed," said Hoyer.

Hoyer also spoke at his weekly news conference about a two-part deal in which the House would get pay/go and Senate Democrats would get a deficit commission.

Hoyer noted the real item of contention was "what happens to the product of the commission's work?" - not who gets appointed to it, who appoints those members or when.

Hoyer said he is not sure that Conrad's demands for an assured vote on the commission's findings would pass either the Senate or the House, but that he does not think that necessarily is a roadblock to a deal.

"I am, as you know, a supporter of the commission - not everything that was in Conrad and Gregg's bill. But I think the commission idea itself is a step towards making a very tough decision," he said.

"We're working towards getting agreement," said Hoyer. "I think that there ... is a way and we've been discussing a way to try to ensure that Sen. Conrad and those who support his efforts have a comfort level."

Billy House contributed to this report.