Fiscal Commission Co-Chair Erskine Bowles Reacts to President Obama's Budget

There's been a lot of talk this week about how the deficit commission's recommendations on fixing entitlements didn't make it into President Obama's budget, a committee that the president created last year via executive order.

Tuesday at a news conference, the president indicated that just because it wasn't included in the budget, doesn't mean there won't be changes the entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Co-chair of the deficit commission, former Clinton official Erskine Bowles provided the following reactions to Fox News on President Obama's budget. (Click here for reaction from the other co-chair, Republican Al Simpson)

1) What is your overall reaction to the budget?

I was encouraged that the President spoke favorably about the Fiscal Commission's plan and incorporated many of our proposals in his budget. In addition, he expressed a desire to continue the dialogue we began on Social Security, tax reform and other steps that will be necessary to put our nation back on sound financial footing. This is the President's opening position, and he hasn't shown all his cards, which is to be expected this early in the process. But he must move quickly to begin a process that moves beyond the small steps he has taken in his budget to begin a process toward a comprehensive plan that can get the broad support necessary to be enacted.

2) What's your reaction to the fact that a lot of the deficit commission's recommendations on entitlements like Social Security and Medicare didn't make it into the budget? Why do you think they were left out?

Serious reforms of entitlements or the tax code can only be done through a bipartisan process with leaders from both sides at the table. The President said the right things about wanting to build on the work of the commission on these issues and beginning a process of reforms, but for all this talk to become reality serious discussion must begin soon with an appropriate sense of urgency. The President must provide the leadership to create an environment in which it is possible to begin serious negotiations about the tough but fiscally responsible choices that will be necessary.

3) What's in store for you and the administration next -- will you formally or informally be doing any advising?

Ultimately only the President can provide the necessary leadership to get something done, and it will be up to elected officials to make the tough choices to reach an agreement, but I will be doing whatever I can to be helpful in providing policymakers with the cover to make tough choices and help push the process along toward a bipartisan agreement on a serious, comprehensive fiscal plan. Al and I will continue to speak out both about the magnitude of the problem and the tough choices that will be necessary and publicly and privately encourage our leaders to take action. In many ways the Commission was a test case for divided government, and the work we did to find a bipartisan consensus in the commission on a serious, comprehensive plan taught us many lessons and insights that could be useful in the current political environment. We will encourage the President and Congress to use the Commission plan as a starting point for serious negotiations and insist that the final product be as serious and ambitious with broad enough support to pass.