Super Committee Running Out of Time and Patience


Less than a week stands between the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and its legislative judgment day as both sides busily ready their messaging entourages for what seems to be a more and more likely scenario of abject failure. The Super Committee, a bipartisan committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in savings before Thanksgiving, is quickly running out of time and, it seems, a chance at agreement.

Both sides have proposed potential deals to the generally public distaste of the opposing party. Even private offerings, which appear on their face to be far more flexible in their outcomes, have been rejected for reasons we in the public can only guess. This has resulted in an interesting, if expected scenario. While Republicans and Democrats on the committee are doing their best to keep the conversation civil concerning their counterparts across the aisle, they have not minced words concerning ideologically opposed ideas.

“Any penny of increased [] revenue is a step in the wrong direction,” said Republican committee co-chair Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) in a recent appearance on CNBC. “If we can’t get any type of reforms in health care…then no, there’s no reason to frankly put any [] revenues on the table.”

This rhetoric, immediately blasted by Democrats, meshes well with what more hard-lined conservatives have been saying throughout the Super Committee’s deliberations. Grover Norquist, the “no new taxes”-pledge wielding bulldog of the right, confidently told The Hill earlier this week that the Super Committee is “not going to be passing any tax increases,” citing private conversations with House and Senate leadership.

A clear warning of the potential stalemate to come, the growing public spats between the two political parties shows that neither side seems willing to back off of the positions they stubbornly held heading into the deficit deal and the formation of the Super Committee.

“I don’t think there’s the trust,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) was quoted as saying in Politico, “I think that they don’t have their constituents ready to accept compromises.”

The mandatory sequester, which would enforce across the board cuts if the committee fails to come to an agreement, adds a further wrinkle to the debating positions of either party. While cuts to the Department of Defense would be massive should the committee fail to find agreement, the triggered cuts would barely scratch Medicare and leave Social Security completely untouched. Unsurprisingly, it seems Democrats may be willing to fall back to that position. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the mandatory cuts “the lesser of two evils” when it came to entitlement programs.

There’s still a shot, with Democratic committee co-chair Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) noting that the Democrats on the panel were close to accepting an offer made by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Penn.) that would raise some revenues in the form of new taxes via deduction caps.

The final deadline for the Congressional Budget Office to do a last-minute scoring in time for the Novermber 23 vote is Monday. Whether or not Democrats can win over a single vote from the Republican side of the Super Committee to make the deadline remains to be seen. Then, the real fun begins as the remaining 523 members of Congress weigh in on the proposed package. Whether a bipartisan deal that includes new tax revenues and potential entitlement reform can clear an aggressively conservative House and the Democrat-controlled Senate would be the next big question.

Photo Credit: C.E. Kent