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Strong fiscal fixes in Obama panel's final report

The leaders of President Barack Obama's fiscal commission released a final report Wednesday that is full of political dynamite, recommending sharp cuts in military spending, a higher retirement age and reforms that could cost the average taxpayer an extra $1,700 a year.

But as commission co-chairmen Erskine Bowles and Alan K. Simpson unveiled the plan at a Capitol Hill hearing, it was unclear whether they would be able to build a convincing bipartisan consensus before the commission's 18 members - 12 of them sitting lawmakers - are scheduled to vote on the report Friday.

The White House continued Wednesday to reserve judgment on the commission's work, which is intended to help shape the administration's next budget request, due out in February.

"The president looks forward to reviewing their work at the conclusion of their votes . . . and evaluating their proposals and their votes as we move forward and put together a budget of our own for next year," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said.

Two commission members - Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) - immediately came out in strong support, saying that although they don't like everything in the package, it charts a responsible path away from the abyss of rising debt and potential fiscal crisis.

"America is in danger. And we can either look the other way, hope somebody else does something, or we can act," Conrad said.

Still, after two days of one-on-one meetings with their members, Bowles, White House chief of staff in the Clinton administration, and Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming, said it will be difficult to assemble the 14 votes that would allow them to issue official recommendations.

The final blueprint for rebalancing the federal budget hews closely to an earlier plan released before Thanksgiving. Like the original, it offers an aggressive prescription for reducing deficits by nearly $4 trillion by the end of the decade, in large part by slashing domestic and military spending.

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