The Fix: Bowles-Simpson

Resolved: Supercommittees and debt commissions don’t work

The Bowles-Simpson debt reduction commission’s proposed budget went down in flames in the House on Wednesday night, failing by an overwhelming vote of 382 to 38.

And in doing so, it became just the latest bipartisan creation of Congress to crash and burn when it comes time to implement its proposals.

Think about the congressional “supercommittee,” which after the debt ceiling deal of last August was charged with crafting an additional $1.2 trillion in savings. Its effort ended in partisan gridlock, with no votes or even recommendations sent to the whole Congress.
Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, and Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici, co-chairmen of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Debt Reduction Task Force. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Further back, there was the Grace Commission in the 1980s, crafted for much the same reason as Bowles-Simpson and the congressional supercommittee. It went nowhere.

So why doesn’t this kind of thing work? In an era in which Congress raves about bipartisanship, the two commissions designed to craft a bipartisan agreement on fiscal matters have yet to produce any kind of consensus or results.

In the end, they’re failing for the very same reason regular legislation doesn’t pass: members just aren’t ready to stomach voting for them.

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