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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 12:47 PM ET, 09/15/2011

Top Dems may support proposal to keep `supercommittee’ honest on jobs

Is there any chance that top Democrats will support Senator Jeff Merkley’s idea for the deficit supercommittee’s proposals to be evaluated in terms of their impact on jobs?

Well, yes.

According to an aide to one of the Dems on the supercommittee, the supercommittee Dems have privately discussed supporting Merkley’s idea. Merkly wants the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office co “score” each proposal that emerges from the supercommittee in order to evaluate what impact it would have on unemployment and the labor market.

As I reported here yesterday, Merkley hopes the supercommittee will build into its process a mechanism that enforces a “no harm standard,” or a process to help discourage austerity measures that harm the economy.

The source tells me that some of the Dems are supportive, while several have not signaled support — meaning there’s no consensus yet.

It’s good to hear that the top Dems on the super committee — which include Reps Chris Van Hollen, Xavier Becerra and James Clyburn, and Senators Patty Murray, Max Baucus, and John Kerry — are at least discussing this idea.

Here’s why this is important: Merkley’s idea may be our last realistic hope for having the super committe at least think about the impact of its on jobs as it assembles its deficit-reduction package. As Ezra Klein explained in endorsing the idea:

The CBO has done this before, and all it would take is a request from the committee’s chairs for them to do it again. It wouldn’t require anyone to come to any new ideological epiphanies, or strike any grand new bargains. It would just force them to think hard about the impact their proposals will have on the labor market, and submit their conclusions to the independent analysis of the CBO. That won’t force them to go big, or do anything significant to create jobs. But it’s a small step in the right direction. And realistically, that may be all we can ask for from the supercommittee.

There is reason for pessimism that this will happen. Not all Dems on the committee are favorably disposed towards it. And Republicans are all but certain to oppose the idea, because they are proceeding from the stated assumption that spending cuts automatically produce economic growth. No need for any CBO score, then!

But who knows: Perhaps Dems could still decide that supporting this idea — and challenging Republicans to support it too — would be a good way to make the case that Republicans are prioritizing shrinking government while opposing any independent effort to evaluate its impact on jobs. Separately, I’m told a major liberal blog is going to launch a pressure campaign today on the supercommittee members to get them to support Merkley’s idea.

I know, I know, never gonna happen. But who knows: It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. Either way, what’s striking is that such a no-brainer of an idea stands such a little chance of seeing the light of day in the alternate universe known as the United States Congress.

By  |  12:47 PM ET, 09/15/2011

 
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