Given such concerns, Obama began signaling his desire to tackle the deficit in early 2010. In February of the year, Obama created via executive order a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The commission, which would be bipartisan, would consist of 18 members, with 12 appointed by Congress and six by the president. Its goal would be devising a long-term proposal for lowering the deficit and achieving a balanced budget by at least 2015.

To chair the commission, Obama tapped former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Erskine Bowles, a one-time chief of staff to ex-President Bill Clinton. The commission, simply known as Simpson-Bowles, was set to release its recommendations by December 2010 in hopes that the incoming Congress would act on them the following year.

Even though Biden was not a member of the commission, the vice president took an interest in its work because it overlapped with his official role in helping run the administration’s economic recovery efforts. Biden, who had long favored freezing all federal spending, including social security, to rein in the deficit, worked with not only Simpson and Bowles on crafting a proposal, but also the commission’s executive director, Bruce Reed. As a former Clinton administration official in the early-1990s, Reed had partnered with then-Senator Biden on authoring the 1994 crime bill.