Rep. John Larson doesn’t just think the “supercommittee” should be tasked with job creation and deficit reduction.
The Connecticut Democrat thinks that if any jobs bill is to have chance of passing anytime soon, it’s going to need to go through the supercommittee. The reason? Time. The year may not be over, but for Congress, the end is closer than you might think.
It’s also, Larson notes, the only committee empowered to keep Congress busy until the end of the year. Every committee relevant to deficit reduction -- and that’s a lot of them -- has to send the supercommittee a set of recommendations by Oct. 14. The panel must present a plan for $1.5 trillion in additional spending cuts by Thanksgiving or risk pulling an automatic trigger for deep reductions to federal agencies and defense programs. That forces its members to go through separating good ideas from bad ones, figuring out which policies they could live with and which they couldn’t, and generally doing the hard work necessary to pass legislation. The terms of the debt-ceiling deal force them to do that for deficit reduction. Nothing forces them to do that for job creation. And when no one is forcing Congress to get something done, it usually doesn’t get done.
Larson has introduced legislation offering the supercommittee three ways to add jobs to their mandate: Either the existing supercommittee should commit to returning recommendations on jobs, or it should add four new members and create a sub-supercommittee on jobs, or it should create a parallel supercommittee on jobs.
But there’s one other option I brought up to Larson: The Democrats -- or, for that matter, the Republicans -- on the committee could simply refuse to vote for any recommendations that don’t include sufficient action on jobs. The committee needs Democratic votes and, ultimately, a presidential signature.
Failure to secure any of those things would lead inevitably to the trigger. As such, either party could unilaterally add jobs to the agenda, and back that addition up with the trigger, simply by refusing to clear any package that didn’t include employment.
Larson wasn’t willing to go quite that far in our conversation. “To be fair to the committee,” he said. “they are kind of walking on eggshells. They want this to succeed.” That means his path forward requires support from Democrats and Republicans. So I asked him whether there was interest in his proposals from the other side of the aisle.
“We’re getting there,” he said. “And when I say we’re getting there, without giving people up who have come up to me and said, ‘Hey, we agree with you but we’re looking at our leadership here,’ I have at least a dozen members who have approached me and said, ‘You’re on the money with this.’ The question is whether we can get them to be part of the effort.“