Congress May Try To Prevent Automatic Cuts If SuperCommittee Fails
Senator Pat Toomey said this morning that Congress may end up working around the automatic cuts included in August’s budget deal if the Supercommittee fails to reach a budget deal that can be passed by Congress:
A member of the deficit super committee says Congress likely would rethink allowing the automatic budget cuts to be triggered if the panel fails to come up with at least $1.2 trillion in savings, or if Congress fails approve such a plan by Dec. 23.
“First of all, I’m not giving up on getting something done. I really think we still can and I am going to do everything I can to achieve that,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., pressed during an appearance Sunday on Fox News Sunday about whether the 12-member panel will reach agreement on a plan by its Nov. 23 deadline.
But if agreement is not reached on how to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the nation’s deficit over the next decade, Toomey said, “I think a lively debate will occur” over whether to allow the automatic cuts take place—so-called sequestration—despite President Obama’s insistence on Friday he would not go along with any attempt to turn them off.
“But in the very very unfortunate event that we don’t, I think it’s very likely that Congress would reconsider the configuration of that sequestration. And consider is this really the best way to do it,” said Toomey.
He added that the debate likely would be about the “nature of those cuts—which I think the cuts have to occur, but they might occur in a different fashion.”
Toomey’s comments come amid growing speculation that Congress could change the breakdown of the $1.2 trillion in cuts that would automatically kick in if the panel and lawmakers fail to reach a deal—half of which would come from the Pentagon and the other half from domestic programs. Republicans, in particular, have complained that such automatic would be particularly harmful to the military.
But the White House put out a statement Friday underscoring its position that the sequestration was put in place to help force a deal to slash the debt, and should not be reconsidered.
The committee’s deadline expires on the 23rd, and there are plenty of procedural obstacles that would make it hard to take apart the deal that was reached in August, not the least of them being the Senate filibuster. However, it’s clear that there area a not insignificant number of Republicans who aren’t comfortable with the cuts to defense spending that would be implemented under the deal, and a not insignificant number of Democrats who aren’t comfortable with the cuts on the other side of the ledger. The problem that any effort to change the automatic cuts faces is two-fold. First, it would require reaching a new deal which is what the Supercommittee is apparently failing at doing spectacularly. Second, it would require the President to agree and the White House seems rather insistent right now that the current deal will stand absent something from the Supercommittee.
The real problem Congress faces here, both parties, is that if they try to change the deal if (when?) the Supercommittee fails, it’s going to further damage whatever credibility they have left on deficit reduction. With an election coming up, and with Congressional approval ratings in the basement already, that’s probably not a risk they ought to take.