Supercommittee Headed For Unsurprising Failure

Not surprisingly, the Supercommittee is a Super Failure.

With only days to go before it has to come up with a plan, it’s beginning to look like the Joint Select Committee On The Deficit is headed for what is, in the end, a rather unsurprising failure:

A Saturday with minimal activity offered little hope that the congressional deficit supercommittee would be able to stave off an embarrassing failure to accomplish its assigned task.

The 12-member panel has just five days to approve at least $1.2 trillion in budget savings, but the flurry of meetings and “shuttle diplomacy” among members of the committee slowed to a near-stop on Saturday. No face-to-face meetings were held, aides in both parties said, while Republican members convened a single conference call in the morning.

One Democratic member who has been among the most active in the talks, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), attended a Thanksgiving parade in his district and planned to go to a high school soccer game, an aide said.

The lack of outward urgency suggested that members in both parties were resigning themselves to the likelihood that the panel will not be able to reach an agreement by its Nov. 23 deadline. The committee would by law need to deliver proposals to the Congressional Budget Office by Monday night in order for a vote to occur on Wednesday.

With hopes dim for a broad deal that meets or exceeds the $1.2 trillion charge, Republicans this week made a $643 billion fallback offer that would lock in agreed-upon spending cuts and soften the across-the-board reductions that would be triggered if the committee fails. Democrats rejected the bid, however, calling it “laughable.”

A spokesman for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said he remained in “close contact” with GOP members of the panel throughout the day.

While Politico is reporting that House Speaker Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Reid continue to work behind the scenes to nudge the committee into some kind of deal, both The Washington Post and Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook are reporting this morning that the group will declare on Monday, that it has. failed to reach a deal, which seems rather apparent anyway since any deal  would need to be made public by Midnight Monday in order to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office in time for a Wednesday vote by the Committee.

In the end, this isn’t entirely surprising. It was apparent as early as a month ago that things were not going well at all, and although I remained optimistic at the time that some kind of deal would make it out of the committee in retrospect it’s clear that this was pretty much wishful thinking. For one thing, though the calendar doesn’t officially say it, we are already deep into the 2012 election cycle. The Republican Presidential candidates have been running for months, and the President’s re-election campaign started in September when he put forward a “jobs plan” that was designed more to score political points than anything else. Moreover, Members of Congress themselves have elections to worry about, and we’re heading for a year when the control of the Senate hangs in the balance. The idea that a committee of 12 divided equally between party and chamber, and consisting of people who were ready to leave office at the end of 2012 like Jon Kyl would be able to reach a deal on the very issues that the 2012 election is going to be fought seems silly when you think about it.

No doubt, both sides will try to spin this to their own partisan advantage. Republicans will cite it as evidence that Democrats aren’t serious about fiscal reform. Democrats will cite it as evidence of GOP unwillingness to raise taxes. Given the fact that most of this coverage will occur during a week when many Americans are already starting to tune out of the news and get ready for Thanksgiving, though, I’m guess much of the partisan sniping will fall on deaf ears, and that most Americans will view this as yet another example of Congress failing to get anything done.

So, instead, as the Washington Post reports, Congress is left with a number of unresolved issues between now and the end of the year:

The congressional committee tasked with reducing the federal deficit is poised to admit defeat as soon as Monday, and its unfinished business will set up a year-end battle over emergency jobless benefits and an expiring payroll tax holiday.

Those provisions are among a host of measures set to lapse at the end of December. During nearly three months of negotiations, the “supercommittee” had been weighing whether to extend at least some of them as part of a broader plan to shave a minimum of $1.2 trillion over the next decade.

Democrats and many economists consider particularly urgent the need to extend jobless benefits and the one-year payroll tax cut. With national unemployment stuck at 9 percent, and the ranks of the long-term unemployed at record levels, the government is providing up to 99 weeks of support to about 3.5 million people.

Meanwhile, the payroll tax cut, enacted last December, allows most American workers to keep an additional 2 percent of their earnings, a boon to tight household budgets as well as the economic recovery. Economists at J.P. Morgan Chase recently estimated that if Congress does not extend the two measures, economic growth next year could take a hit of as much as two percentage points — enough to revive fears of a recession.

Time is also running out for doctors who see Medicare patients. These physicians are scheduled to absorb a 30 percent cut in government reimbursements in January. A long list of tax breaks, including an inflation adjustment that protects more than 30 million families from paying the alternative minimum tax, also will be eliminated unless Congress acts.

Although many of the expiring provisions have received bipartisan support in the past, this year they face a welter of political obstacles, none more important than cost. Extending them all through 2012 threatens to add nearly $300 billion to annual budget deficits — and therefore to future borrowing — darkening the nation’s fiscal outlook at the very moment lawmakers had hoped to reassure financial markets with fresh savings.

So, those are the debates we have to look forward to when Congress returns after the Thanksgiving Break. Beyond that, there’s the possibility that Congress will try to change the deal that was reached in August by messing with the automatic cuts that would take place beginning in Fiscal Year 2013 as a consequence of the Supercommittee’s failure.  Of course, any changes to the deal would have to pass through both Houses of  Congress and get the President’s signature, something which seems incredibly unlikely now and is likely to be impossible in the heat of an election year.

In the end, it was probably foolish to think that a single committee could do what Congress had failed to do, or that either party would be willing to give away the store on what is going to be the central core of the 2012 campaign. It would have been better, perhaps, to reach a deal that raised the debt ceiling, cut spending, and then put the rest of this battle off until after the election. This is what happens, though, when you spend a month wasting time and end up making a deal at the last minute and, once again, it shows us that July and August 2011 were not exactly the finest hours for the United States Congress.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.

Comments

  1. Eric Florack says:

    The democrats never wanted this deal. They know damned well that the Democrats aren’t going to go along with not going for the class warfare they’;ve been spouting for the last eon.

    The bottom line is that they wanted something to toss at the republicans in the coming election. You can’t run against a “do nothing Congress” if it actually did something.

  2. Hey Norm says:

    “…No doubt, both sides will try to spin this to their own partisan advantage. Republicans will cite it as evidence that Democrats aren’t serious about fiscal reform. Democrats will cite it as evidence of GOP unwillingness to raise taxes…”
    Jesus-god Doug…when will you ever give up on this fantasy. Yes that may be the spin…but any analysis should say that it’s total bullshit. Democrats have been trying to deal…willing to make spending cuts to programs they like…and they have on multiple occasions and you know that. This all comes down to Republicans refusing to raise revenues in a significant manner. They have chosen Grover Norquist over their country and you know that. There’s one party trying to get something done and one who isn’t…and you ignoring that in order to pretend you are presenting a balanced analysis only reinforces your position as a partisan hack.

  3. Eric Florack says:

    Democrats have been trying to deal…willing to make spending cuts to programs they like…

    Name one.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    @Eric…
    The so-called Grand Bargain that Boehner wanted to do with Obama included entitlement cuts but Boehner could not bring along the Tea Stained caucus.
    Every Democratic proposal to the Super-Comittee has had entitlement cuts.
    If Republicans were serious about the debt they would move off the Norquist pledge. They are not.
    But it’s OK because in the absence of action the Bush Tax Cuts, which have done massive damage to the debt outlook, will expire and the country will be better off than it is today.

  5. michael reynolds says:

    @Eric Florack:
    I’m curious: do you ever even read the news? For a man with an opinion on everything you are consistently uninformed on even the basics.

  6. Dean says:

    The mindless “my party’s right, your party’s wrong” that has become the comments section of this blog is unfortunate. Neither party has shown any interest in anything other than their own political power.

    And that power extends into protecting the financial gain of their donors and themselves. Beyond that, I’ve seen very little from the administration or Congress to do anything worthwhile over the last two years.

  7. mike says:

    I think with all of the doomsday talk concerning the automatic cuts to Defense, my bet is that Congress will pass new legislation to shield defense sometime in the next year when the cuts take place. The 2nd and 3rd order effects on employment with cutting so many parts of the DoD will scare Congress into protecting it.

  8. Hey Norm says:

    @ Dean…
    I do not disagree…but when one parties only agenda is to obstruct, when every negotiation comes down to my way or the highway, and the only job they are concerned with is Obama’s and taking it away…that’s where you end up.
    Every single attempt at real deficit reduction has been stopped by a party that refuses to raise revenue in the face of historically low effective tax rates and a huge debt. The Grand Bargain would have been theargest debt reduction in history at something like 8:1 spending to revenue and the Republicans rejected it because of a tax cut catechism foisted on them by a F’ING LOBBYIST.
    End of the day I don’t believe it is party vs. party…it’s rational vs. irrational.

  9. ponce says:

    If they are going to make a deal, it was always going to come on the last day.

    That’s how Congress has been working lately.

  10. Eric Florack says:

    But it’s OK because in the absence of action the Bush Tax Cuts, which have done massive damage to the debt outlook, will expire and the country will be better off than it is today.

    Bovine feces. Raising taxes on that magnitude will put us back into he recession.

  11. Eric Florack says:

    I’m curious: do you ever even read the news?

    Moreso than yourself, apparently.
    For example, enough to know that the Republicans have offered several proposals to riase revenue, all of which have been rejected by the Democrats because they didn’t target the rich thus damaging the efforts of the Democrats at class warfare…. and all of them have been rejected on that point.

  12. ponce says:

    Raising taxes on that magnitude will put us back into he recession.

    That’s a dumb statement considering tax rates were much, much higher during the Reagan and Clinton economic booms.

  13. Hey Norm says:

    Yes of course Eric…just exactly like when Bush 41 and Clinton raised taxes. Oh wait…that led to one of the longest periods without a recession in modern history. So-called republicans said the same thing then that you are saying now. They were wrong then and you are wrong now.
    So that’s two of your emotional, fact-free, partisan stands batted down this am. Care to go for 3?

  14. Hello World! says:

    So everyone brace for the 401k landslide next week. Stocks wont do any better which is why millionairs are saying raise taxes already.

  15. Hey Norm says:

    @ Eric…
    Those republican proposals in general were tiny increases in revenue through removing loopholes in exchange for making the Bush Tax Cuts permanent…so in effect they were tax cuts…intended to cloud the issue, which based on your comment, they did successfully.

  16. Scott O. says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Republicans have offered several proposals to riase revenue

    Yes, their plan is to cut taxes resulting in higher revenues delivered by unicorns.

  17. Rick Almeida says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Raising taxes on that magnitude will put us back into he recession.

    Just like the recession that lasted throughout the 90s.

  18. Eric Florack says:

    Yes of course Eric…just exactly like when Bush 41 and Clinton raised taxes. Oh wait…that led to one of the longest periods without a recession in modern history

    That was Reagan. The tax increases you mention are what amplified our current situation.

  19. Eric Florack says:

    Yes, their plan is to cut taxes resulting in higher revenues delivered by unicorns.

    Actually, no, it;s delivered by increased economic growth.

  20. Hey Norm says:

    @ Eric…
    That’s what we’ve been hearing for ten years…ten years that we’ve had historically low effective tax rates. When does the growth start??? How low do rates have to get for this miracle growth to happen??? Seriously…

  21. Ben Wolf says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Raising taxes on that magnitude will put us back into he recession.

    You’re right. Do you know why it will put us back into recession? It will pull money out of the private sector and reduce demand. The exact same thing that will happen with a spending cut: dollars will drain out of the private sector and reduce demand, putting us into recession.

    Why is causing recession through spending cuts ok, but causing it through raising taxes unacceptable?

  22. jan says:

    @mike:

    The mindless “my party’s right, your party’s wrong” that has become the comments section of this blog is unfortunate. Neither party has shown any interest in anything other than their own political power.

    One of the rare infrequent bipartisan comments posted here for a while.

    However, it’s an election year and no side wants to show weakness to the other side — that includes both R’s and D’s. It’s ludricious, though, that norm still keeps talking about the ‘grand deal,’ as if he ware a fly on the wall of the secret</i. negotiations between Boehner and Obama. There have been an array of articles alluding to why that meeting failed, including that Boehner only walked after Obama, at the last minute, changed the revenue part of the deal, increasing it substantially. Now, I don’t know if that’s true. But, unless you were privy to the truth (by being there), it can’t be automatically discounted because it was an R’s side of the story.

    In the meantime we do have two Senators, Coons and Rubio, trying to weave a deal together calledThe AGREE Act, taking parts of issues, which supposedly both the right and left sides of the aisles have shown agreement on, and blends them into one bill. It will be interesting to see how this kind of bipartisan fairs in our very partisan congress.

  23. jan says:

    @Dean:

    The above post was directed at you, rather than Mike, as I used your quote.

  24. Eric Florack says:

    @Hey Norm: 5he growth starts when government gets out of the way. our economy hit the crapper in response to obama

  25. ponce says:

    Actually, no, it;s delivered by increased economic growth.

    Eric,

    Perhaps you should move to Afghanistan, where there are low taxes (less than 8%), there’s minimal government, everyone can own a gun and religion is openly taught in schools.

    Afghanistan is run exactly like you and your fellow wingnuts want America to be run.

  26. Hey Norm says:

    @ Eric…
    The economy hit the crapper with Obama???? You are dusional. The idea that you believe that is troubling. I think you need professional help. Seriously…

    On another topic…just watched a piece on Grover Norquist on 60 minutes. The idea that this skeevy lobbyist has every single Republican by the balls is tragic. What kind of spineless person signs over their free will to a Lobbyist?? I know Republicans are pu$$ies, but it’s really pathetic. No one ever voted for Norquist…yet he has complete control over the Republican caucus. Astounding. It’s no wonder 9.11 happened on their watch…they have no balls.

  27. Pug says:

    @Eric Florack:

    Our ecconomy hit the crapper well before Obama, dude. It hit the crapper during the administration of the big spending tax cutter you voted for twice: George W. and you know it.