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Who Are Simpson and Bowles?


Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles are pictured here in 2011.

Alex Wong/Getty Images News

You may have heard about the Simpson and Bowles plans to reduce the federal deficit. But who are Simpson and Bowles? And why were they so important to the national conversation over government spending and debt reduction?

About Simpson and Bowles

The Simpson in the Simpson and Bowles duo is former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson, a Republican who represented Wyoming from 1979 through 1996.

The Bowles in in the Simpson and Bowles duo is Erskine Bowles, who served as chief of staff to President Bill Clinton.

Simpson and Bowles were appointed co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which was created by President Barack Obama by executive order in February 2010.

Why Obama Chose Simpson and Bowles

Obama said he appointed members of each major political party to lead the deficit-reduction panel so they could build a bipartisan consensus for fiscal reform in Washington.

"This is one of the most critically important challenges facing the country today and it has be addressed in a bipartisan manner," Obama said at a 2010 news conference announcing his appointment of Simpson and Bowles. "This is not a Republican or Democratic problem – this is a challenge for America."

Of Simpson and Bowles, Obama said: "I know they’ll take up their work with the sense of integrity and strength of commitment that America’s people deserve and America’s future demands."

First Deficit Reduction Plan

The first proposal from the Simpson and Bowles panel, which came at the end of 2010, called for deficit reductions of $4 trillion through 2020 through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases. But the plan failed to get past even their own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Second Deficit Reduction Plan

Simpson and Bowles emerged in February 2013 with another plan to reduce the deficit, this time by $2.4 trillion over 10 years.

The two vowed to cut the annual budget shortfalls by saving $600 billion in Medicare and Medicaid spending, generating $600 billion in new revenue through the elimination of certain tax deductions, and making $1.2 trillion in cuts to defense and discretionary spending.

Simpson and Bowles proposed their second plan as the nation braced for mandatory spending cuts under the 2013 sequestration. They told The Hill newspaper their plan was an attempt to prove "that a grand bargain is still possible."

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