My good friend Frank Hill has a post describing failed past commissions of this sort....by failed meaning they produced recommendations that were not adopted by Congress. Last week a commission failed in the Senate 53-46 (53 voted in favor, but the Senate is operating under de facto supermajority because of threatened filibuster). 7 Republicans who co-sponsored the law developing a bipartisan commission to address entitlements and the deficit voted against their own bill once the President announced his support of it.
Frank says the failure of the commission in the Senate and the President saying he will create a similar commission via an executive order is a waste of time.
I understand Frank's point about past failures, but I think he is wrong. Such a commission could still be a useful, because it is a tool to try and make the ins match the outs. We have to do it.
In the end, if you are using the past as a predictor of the future in predicting how we will deal with our long term fiscal problem, we are doomed. There is no example of our nation doing anything as politically difficult as raising taxes and/or cutting future Medicare and Social Security benefits so that we can achieve fiscal sanity. So, something has got to be different this time, or we will fail. And a commission such as this one is one tool.
Revised, 2/3: Here is a list of the votes. The 7 Republican co-sponsors of the bill who voted against it were: Bennett of Utah, Brownback, Crapo, Ensign, Hutchinson, Inhofe, McCain. All the Democratic co-sponsors voted for it.