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November 16, 2011 8:00 AM Why the super-committee is moving backwards

By Steve Benen

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as the super-committee — has one week to go before it’s supposed to present a bipartisan debt-reduction plan totaling at least $1.2 trillion. By all indications, the panel is failing miserably, and as of yesterday, was moving backwards.

The process may seem a little complicated, but the sticking points are straightforward and predictable. Democrats want a balanced package, including a combination of spending cuts and new tax revenue, along with measures to address the top Democratic priority: job creation.

Republicans want massive spending cuts, no investments in the economy, and tax cuts — which move the super-committee further from its goal, not closer.

There’s been some talk lately about GOP willingness to accept some new revenue, a move that has impressed some media figures like David Gregory and Judy Woodroff. They’re overlooking all of the relevant details — Republicans are willing to accept $250 billion in new revenue through limiting deductions and write-offs, but only if Democrats make all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, at a cost of $3.7 trillion that the GOP has no intention of paying for.

Yes, the Republican debt-reduction proposal deliberately increases the debt. Welcome to GOP politics in the 21st century.

While some in the media inexplicably find this impressive, Democrats and those aware of the details do not. And so, with a week to go, nothing is happening.

Perhaps the most amusing angle of the debate at this point is the intra-party conflict among Republicans.

On one side of the revenue debate are conservative Republicans like Hensarling of Texas and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, two members of the deficit cutting supercommittee, who are privately telling their colleagues that they aren’t abandoning their principles by raising several hundreds of billions in fresh revenue by closing loopholes, as long as Congress is able to lower tax rates across the board.

On the other side are conservatives like Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and roughly 70 House Republicans, who are adamantly opposed to the bulk of the revenue raisers proposed, warning it’s bad policy and politics, and could become a black eye for their party.

Got that? The GOP divide is between right-wing members (those willing to trade $250 billion in new revenue for $3.7 trillion in tax cuts, mostly benefiting the wealthy) and very right-wing members (those who want to reduce the debt without accepting any revenue at all).

Making matters slightly worse, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told CNBC last night that he wanted to see a debt-reduction plan that was 100% spending cuts, combined with additional tax cuts, and that’s “as far as we feel we can go.”

Hensarling is the co-chair of the entire super-committee.

When this panel fails next week, major news organizations will tell the public that “both sides” chose not to reach an agreement. Those reports will be wrong.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on November 16, 2011 8:12 AM:

    I think they think that George Santayana said:

    'Those who do not learn from history are REQUIRED to repeat it.'

    Now, that may be the case in JHS and HS for those who fail a class - but it's no way to run a country.

    Unless you want to run that country completely into the ground.

    Coming soon, to a theatre near you:
    'The USA - a 3rd World Banana Republic, brought to you by banana's Republicans.'

  • Danp on November 16, 2011 8:13 AM:

    The Debt Ceiling fight was kabuki theater. The compromise was to have a second act. Congressional approval ratings are down because we are not a nation of Japanese theater fans. Meanwhile, the media is doing its best to convince us that this is a carnival.

  • Emerald on November 16, 2011 8:17 AM:

    "Those reports will be wrong."

    Actually, those reports will be lying.

  • berttheclock on November 16, 2011 8:19 AM:

    Perhaps, one of the only sane things Newt has ever said, was in calling the formation of this committee a "dumb idea" back in August. He went on to say they would, probably, announce just before Thanksgiving, "OK, you want to be shot in the head or have your right leg removed. What do you prefer?".

    But, yes, our "liberal" media will attempt to call this another "fair and balanced" debacle and the ignorant electorate will, wrongfully, blame those Democrats for not being able to do anything. Funny how many speak of Obama "ramming" things down their collective throats, yet, blame him for not ramming bills through Congress.

  • DAY on November 16, 2011 8:20 AM:

    I wonder; could "Kicking the Can Down the Road" become an olympic sport? It sure is popular in American Politics!

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 16, 2011 8:33 AM:

    Has Judy Woodruff always been this dumb and/or uninformed?

  • Ron Byers on November 16, 2011 8:42 AM:

    In this case failure is an option. The cuts when they come will include the bloated defense budget, now off the table. More importantly the expiration of the Bush tax cuts will eventually lead us back to financial sanity.

  • Derek on November 16, 2011 8:43 AM:

    "Yes, the Republican debt-reduction proposal deliberately increases the debt. "

    I think perhaps one of the core issues here is that these people actually believe (despite all real-world evidence to the contrary) that these tax cuts are revenue neutral as they "empower job creators" which in turn boosts the economy.

    They stopped calling it trickle down, but that's what it is. Unfortunately what's trickling is rotten piss, and it's coming down on 99% of us.

  • Celui on November 16, 2011 9:05 AM:

    In how many other alternate universes is this story not also a debacle? Predictions when this 'Super Committee' was constituted predicted that absolutely NO substantive changes would take place; these predictions were right. When it became obvious (over the years) that Republicans would revere their allegiance to Grover Norquist's insane pledge to "no new taxes," these predictions became iron-clad. The interests of the wealthy and super-wealthy trump the needs of the poor, the un(der)-employed, the entire nation. Who'da thunk it? The people of this nation have ceased to matter to these 'elected' representatives; the nation's future is now (of course) the hostage. In what alternate universe can this debacle possibly become true? Time has come to 'un-elect' these demagogues. Do it. Now.

  • kevo on November 16, 2011 9:22 AM:

    I'm quite sure journalists such as Gregory and Woodroff are wonderfully sincere professionals. Yet if the likes of these two beltway reporters continue to be taken in by the unreasonable lot who call themselves Republican, they will be subject to Mr. T's profound question:

    Who the fool, fool? =Kevo

  • sjw on November 16, 2011 9:27 AM:

    I would guess that the failure of the Supercommittee is exactly what Mitch McConnell wants, indeed wanted all along: it puts cuts off until 2013, when, he hopes, his successful efforts to hamstring the US economy will result in a Republican presidential victory.

    My guess too is that McConnell could count on the "fair and balanced" reporting that Mr. Benen decried above.

    But if Obama et al. can't turn all this to their political advantage, the Democrats deserve to lose. (Given the continued weakness of the Democrats' response, I'm not expecting great things, by the way.)

  • SW on November 16, 2011 9:55 AM:

    Just walk away from this bullshit. You have all the cover you need in the Republican's fealty to the 1%. First do no harm. Just walk away. Any Democrat who signs on to taking money out of the economy at this point in time should shunned by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

  • Anonymous on November 16, 2011 10:31 AM:

    it scares me to hear some republicans talking about a preemptive military action to Iran when we haven't paid for Iraq and Afgan wars yet.
    if you want to be aggressive, at least be willing to pay for it. but they aren't.

    those 2 wars are not finished and we haven't paid for them.
    we put on debts to pay for them later and that later hasn't begin yet.

    Overall, Republican vision for America is very pessimistic and their attitude is impatient.
    Obama's attitude is cautiously slow but at forward thinking. They say his leadership is weak but i consider his thoughtfulness and quiet restrain to be strengths while the previous administration's ordering others aggressively to be a sign of weakness.

    The difference between this summer and now is that they raised deficit ceiling. Obama doesn't have to compromise that much any more. for the worst case scenario, he can just walk away this time.

  • SecularAnimist on November 16, 2011 11:43 AM:

    Steve Benen wrote: "When this panel fails next week, major news organizations will tell the public that 'both sides' chose not to reach an agreement."

    No, the "major news organizations" will blame it on the Democrats.

    At least, that was already NPR's slant this morning: the Republicans have put "serious proposals" on the table and the Democrats are unwilling to "compromise".

  • Shanky on November 16, 2011 3:08 PM:

    So, If the president allows the tax cuts to expire, and congress does nothing - which I think even the casual observer wouldn't be shocked by - then we have an extra 3.7 trillion. Problem solved!

  • Jimo on November 16, 2011 3:13 PM:

    So....would this be the point in Presidential leadership where the President in some off-hand remark (perhaps tacked on to a general question about global economics while attending an economic summit) that notes that he will veto any budget proposal that doesn't include more tax revenues and/or provides a net tax cut?

    Just sayin.......

  • Bill on November 17, 2011 12:33 AM:

    Obama said that he would veto any change to "trigger" (automatic cut to medicare and defense that would happen in 2013) if the super committee failed to agree on the budge cut this year. i guess is that he would wait and have it sit on his table until he won reelection and then veto it during the lame duck in 2012. he can let the bush cut expire then, too.

    not saying that he would. but he can more safely, then. that's pretty risky, though.

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