The Deficit Super Committee: What's in the Mix?

August 10, 2011

6:42 pm, Central

Diane W. Collins



Super Committee

Congressional "team leaders" have been under pressure to make their "picks" for the "Deficit Super Committee" with the August 16th deadline looming large. The committee was created through a recently enacted law that increased the debt limit by approximately $2.4T (S.365, the debt ceiling bill amendment in the form of a substitution for S.627.)


Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) was the first to announce his players on August 9th choosing Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT) and John Kerry, (D-MA). Today, both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) made their choices. McConnell called on Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Rob Portman (R-OH). Boehner appointed Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), Dave Camp (R-MI), and Fred Upton (R-MI). The committee co-chairs are Sen. Patty Murray, chosen by Reid; and Rep. Jeb Hensarling appointed by Boehner. House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi has yet to announce. So, what's the strategy of the mix, so far?


There is much to consider. For example, on the Democrats side Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the Senate Democrat Conference Secretary and as such is in charge of fundraising for the party. Rumors were flying today that she was raising special interest money in exchange for protecting cuts during Super Committee meetings. Wouldn't that border on selling influence? Nah, that's just how Washington works with lobbyists. Don't be silly.


Regarding any revenue increases, all of the Republican members of the Super Committee have signed Grover Norquist's, "Taxpayer Protection Pledge." Norquist is the president of "Americans for Tax Reform." If true to their pledge, there won't be any new taxes coming out of the Super Committee but it is possible an agreement on the elimination of tax credits could be made if there is a dollar-for-dollar tax deduction. Of course, Democrats are insisting that tax revenues must be part of the final deal. Gridlock? Maybe. It's going to depend on their definition of the term "revenue."


So what's the timeline? As mentioned, the team leaders need to pick their players by August 16th with Pelosi the only one yet to announce. The Super Committee, once finalized has until November 23rd to come up with $1.2T in spending cuts or tax revenue. The full House and Senate must vote by December 23rd on the committee's report under special rules requiring an up or down vote, no amendments. If the vote fails the infamous "trigger" is pulled.


The trigger requires 50/50 across the boards cuts to discretionary domestic and defense spending. (Some report this would include non-discretionary Medicare but exclude Social Security and Medicaid. It's true there would be cuts to Medicare but they would involve physician reimbursements.) Can the trigger fail? According to Bloomberg, Former CBO Directors Say Spending-Cut Trigger May Fire Blanks. "While the cuts are supposed to be automatic, Congress can delay or override them if they prove too painful."...


Ah, reality. The "super" powers seem to have been dispelled. What's the point of all this? Political staging for the 2012 campaign? A platform from which America can be fed each parties talking points? Everything I've read on this issue tells me the Super Committee is a device to get us past the next election because the cuts in the trigger don't kick in until 2013. Cut, Cap and Balance would have fixed all of this. Yet another reminder that we only control one-half of one-third of the federal government. What should we do? The only thing we can until November 2012. Play to the camera, baby... play to the camera.





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