An interesting report from Ryan Grim:
Nancy Pelosi will be prepared to beat back a run on Social Security or Medicare if the deficit commission recommends cuts to the popular entitlement program following the November election. The House Speaker deliberately avoided appointing House chairmen with jurisdiction over Social Security and Medicare to President Obama’s commission, House staffers involved with the commission tell HuffPost, so that she could retain the option to sidetrack the panel’s recommendations.
Pelosi appointed Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-S.C.), Rep. Jan Schakowski (D-Ill.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). Becerra is a member of Pelosi’s leadership and a close ally. Schakowsky is also a progressive ally of Pelosi’s.
If the commission recommends cuts to Social Security or Medicare, the Speaker would have the option of referring the recommendations to the Ways and Means Committee. None of the chairs of the committees or subcommittees with jurisdiction over Social Security or Medicare are on the deficit panel.
Oh? While this is true, it’s mainly an artifact of the fact that the Ways and Means Committee chairmanship was up in the air, with Charlie Rangel at the helm, at the time that Pelosi made her selections. Sander Levin is the chairman now. Pelosi picked the budget committee chair, Spratt, which was in line with the selection of Kent Conrad by the Senate. But I’d gather the only reason the Ways and Means chair wasn’t represented is that nobody knew who it would be at the time.
In addition, how does this jibe with the non-binding resolution that the recommendations of the cat food commission get a vote on the House floor if they pass the Senate? Is Pelosi, or rather her aides, suggesting that she would deny that vote and just refer the recommendations to committee, allowing them to die quietly?
That’s unclear. But certainly this statement from Pelosi has value:
Pelosi said that there was no chance that Social Security would be cut during the lame-duck session. “No. Here’s the thing. It’s really important to make this distinction,” she said. “There are two things happening here: We have a big deficit, so people say, ‘Well, we’re going to change Social Security to help the deficit.’ They have nothing to do with each other directly.” […]
“How can you say to seniors, ‘You’re going to have to work longer.’ Now, mind you, it’s okay for me to work to 70–no heavy lifting, no outdoor work. But it’s not okay for laborers to work to 70. It’s all relative. But you’re going to [be forced to] work to 70, no matter what, so we can give a tax cut to the richest people in America? Something is missing in this picture, and if they tried to do that I think it would get a very negative response,” she said.
“Let’s hope they’re thinking in a more fair way about how to go forward. I have no idea,” said Pelosi. “I do know I have confidence in the people I named to the commission.”
While I don’t totally buy the “stacked the deck” premise, I do think it’s valuable that Pelosi wouldn’t give a vote of confidence to anyone on the commission but who she appointed, and that she savaged the idea of raising the retirement age or cutting benefits. In the end, that could play a role when the vote-counting begins.