Debt panel: More members sign on

By Rich Barbieri, deputy managing editor

NEW YORK ( -- A controversial plan by a presidential commission to slash $4 trillion in federal debt has drawn strong bipartisan support as the panel held its final vote on Friday.

So far, 11 of 18 members have said they would support the report recommending a wide range of spending and tax changes. Of the 11 "yes" votes, five were cast by Democrats, five by Republicans and one by an independent.

Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, one of the most liberal members of the Senate, signed on late Thursday.

"This plan is not perfect, and it is certainly not the plan I would have written. But it will help put Americans back to work and it will reduce our federal debt dramatically," Durbin wrote in a Chicago Tribune commentary. "If we don't act now ... the tough choices we face now only get tougher."

Earlier Thursday, two conservative Republicans threw their support behind the recommendations.

"Our debt crisis is a threat not just to our way of life but to our national survival," said Sen. Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho. "And the threat that we face is so real and so close that we do not have further time for gridlock or inaction."

Crapo was joined by Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma. (Take the CNNMoney debt quiz)

The panel needs 14 "yes" votes to make official recommendations to Congress. The commission comprises 12 current lawmakers -- evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans -- and six presidential appointees.

At a public meeting on Wednesday, it was clear that seven members would vote for the plan.

It was also clear that at least two -- Democrat Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan -- opposed it. On Thursday, Democrat Sen. Max Baucus issued a statement indicating that he, too, could not support the plan. Another "no" vote: Former union leader Andrew Stern.

Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill had vowed to bring the panel's plan to a floor vote by the end of the year if 14 members signed on.

But the current lame-duck Congress is not expected to take any significant deficit-reduction action before adjourning, even if 14 members were to back the commission's plan.

Still, some fiscal experts believe that the more support the recommendations draw from the commission itself, the more force they will have on Capitol Hill next year when deficit issues are expected to be a higher priority.

-- CNN's Laurie Frankel contributed to this report.  To top of page

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