The Fix: supercommittee

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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Supercommittee wins “Worst Week in Washington”

Supercommittee wins “Worst Week in Washington”

It may only be Tuesday but the supercommittee’s failure to agree on, well, anything makes it a runaway winner for our “Worst Week in Washington” award. (Plus, this is a holiday-shortened week so Tuesday is the new Thursday.)

As we write in our “Worst Week” writeup:

In a story arc familiar to Washington Redskins fans in recent years, the congressional “supercommittee” — the 12-member panel tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in federal budget cuts by Thanksgiving — began with a sense of hope against impossible odds, only to devolve into the finger-pointing when faced with failure.

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Why the supercommittee failed — in 3 easy steps

Why the supercommittee failed  — in 3 easy steps

The failure of the congressional supercommittee to find common ground on at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction is easily — albeit cynically — explained in three steps.

We go through each of them in some detail below — and, no, one of them isn’t that the supercommittee never got capes, although that didn’t help — but the gist is this: the political pressure to do something never came close to matching the political will not to.

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Supercommittee? Most Americans don’t care

Supercommittee? Most Americans don’t care

Official Washington is consumed with the fast-approaching deadline — just seven days left! — for the so-called supercommittee to find $1.2 trillion in trims to reduce the federal budget deficit.

And yet, the American public is either: a) entirely uninterested/unaware of the debt machinations in D.C. or b) deeply pessimistic that Congress can/will get anything done.

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Deja vu all over again on debt talks

House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) made abundantly clear in a speech today that tax increases should be off the table as the so-called “supercommittee” — their capes are still on order — begins its negotiations about bringing down the nation’s debt.


(House Speaker John Boehner ruled out tax increases to close the nation’s debt in a speech on Thursday.)
“When it comes to producing savings to reach its $1.5 trillion deficit reduction target, the Joint Select Committee has only one option: spending cuts and entitlement reform,”said Boehner. (Isn’t that two options?)

Boehner’s pledge comes just days after a rough sketch of President Obama’s own deficit reduction plan, which will be formally unveiled next Monday, emerged with a series of tax increases on corporations and wealthy individuals.

So that’s where we are.Call it irresistible force meets immoveable object. Or, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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