Super Committee Super Deadlocked
Not surprisingly, the "Super Committee" to deal with the deficit isn't making much progress.
Not surprisingly, the Joint Select Committee On The Deficit apparently isn’t making much progress:
The supercommittee is struggling.
After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.
While the panel members themselves aren’t doing much talking, other lawmakers, aides and lobbyists closely tracking the committee are increasingly skeptical, even pessimistic, that the panel will be able to meet its assigned goal of at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years.
The reason? A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.
Democrats won’t go for an agreement that doesn’t include lots of new tax revenue; Republicans are just as ardently anti-tax. The impasse over revenues means that Democrats won’t agree to cost curbs on popular entitlement programs like Medicare.
“Fairness has to be a prerequisite for it,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “We have just come through passing a bill that was (all spending) cuts, no revenue.” Pelosi was referring to the August debt limit bill, which set tight “caps” on agency budgets but didn’t contain revenue increases pressed by Democrats.
Democrats are more insistent on revenues now.
“There’s been no movement on revenues and I’m not sure the Democrats will agree to anything without revenues,” added a Democratic lobbyist who required anonymity to speak candidly.
Asked last week whether she is confident that the panel can hit its $1.2 trillion goal, co-chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., sidestepped the question.
“I am confident that the public is watching us very closely to see if we can show this country that this democracy can work,” Murray told reporters. “I carry that weight on my shoulders every day and so does every member of this committee.”
The two parties have equal strength on the panel, which has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to submit for up-or-down House and Senate votes in December. That means bipartisan compromise is a prerequisite for a successful result.
Thus far, say aides to panel members and other lawmakers, neither side has demonstrated the required flexibility in the super-secret talks.
In other words, it’s Washington operating as usual and, as I said, nothing to be surprised about. On some level, I agree with Jonathan Bernstein that reports like this are as much about the various sides (and there are probably more than two sides here) fleshing out their arguments and their positions than they are an indication of what might happen in the committee in the end. I’d still say that we’re likely to get something out of the committee by the time all of this is done, the question is whether its something that’s likely to pass both Houses of Congress and get approved by the President.
President Obama has already said that he would veto any plan from the committee that didn’t include tax increases on some income earners, an idea which Speaker John Boehner almost immediately rejected. In the meantime, the deal that the President and Republicans ended up reaching in August arguably already gave the Republicans what they wanted, sizable budget cuts without any tax increases as the price for an increase in the debt ceiling. If the committee is unable to come up with a plan, or if that plan doesn’t pass muster with Congress and the President, then those cuts automatically go into place starting in December. As I noted in December, this arguably means that there really isn’t as much pressure to make a deal as some are thinking, at least not for Republicans:
Yes, there’s been some grousing from conservatives about the level of the defense cuts, but when you really look at it, its clear that the Defense Budget under the automatic cuts actually makes out better than it would have under previous budget projections. If Obama is really making this gamble on the theory that he GOP would rather make a deal that includes tax increases but doesn’t touch entitlements in any significant respects than to let the automatic cuts take place, then I think he’s misreading his opponents yet again.
With more than a month left to go before the deadline kicks in, this is likely just the opening move in a dance that will go on for some time. In the end, though, if one side has already gotten what they want, then what’s the incentive to make a deal?