There was a very curious bit in yesterday’s press conference with Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, where Simpson claimed that Harry Reid promised a vote on the recommendations that will come out today in the next Congress. I did some digging on that, and Reid has made that promise, but with two conditions: the commission must provide legislative language in hand, and they must get at least a majority vote on the commission, which would be 10 votes.
I can’t tell whether Reid is being cagey or whether he moved the goalposts way backward, but it’s unclear whether the commission will be able to do either of these things. First of all, they said yesterday they wouldn’t have legislative language ready. And the commission actually ceases to exist, under the executive order, after today. Here’s Simpson saying exactly that two weeks ago:
To those who just wish the commission would go away, Simpson had one bit of good news: “That’s exactly what we’re going to do December 2.”
There’s no money to hire anyone to write legislative language, and based on their initial draft, Simpson and Bowles certainly won’t do it. This isn’t much of an obstacle, as I assume they can just dip into Pete Peterson’s petty cash and poach a staffer-turned-lobbyist or two to get this done. But it is a small obstacle.
The far bigger one is even getting to 10 votes on the panel. Here’s the final report. I don’t need to do a separate post from the one I did before. They basically didn’t change anything. Simpson and Bowles are so arrogant and so wedded to this belief of doing something terrible because this is the “moment of truth” that they kept the widely panned proposal essentially the same. The ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases remains over 2:1. The spending caps are still there. So’s the “cut and invest” committee, which is just a punt that realizes savings out of thin air. And the reduction in tax rates to approach a flat tax, a more regressive scenario than under the Clinton years. And the repeal of the CLASS Act, a long-term care insurance plan from the health care law that hasn’t even started yet. And the health care hand-waving that says “just limit spending growth to GDP +1% every year by… just do it.” About the only new thing borrows from the Rivlin-Domenici idea of a payroll tax holiday, but only asks Congress to “consider” it. There’s a full wrap-up here.
This is a terrible plan. And the authors know it. That’s why they’re not having a vote on it today, because nobody likes it. Paul Ryan is a no, and I think you can safely say that about every Republican on the panel seeking re-election – Ryan sets the tone. Judd Gregg may be a yes, but I don’t see where the other Yes votes come from. Jan Schakowsky and Xavier Becerra look like sure no’s. If the payroll tax holiday was more than “consider,” I’d say they got Rivlin’s vote, and they probably do anyway. Jackie Calmes claims that they have maybe 5 votes from non-electeds out of 6 (all but Andy Stern), but that the 12 electeds are completely divided. A majority would probably come down to needing Senate Republicans to switch or some of the squishier Democrats.
I don’t know if they get to 10, the threshold for Reid to hold a vote. And even if they do, this package is political dynamite, it doesn’t look Constitutional in many places with the binding of future Congresses, and without amendment I think you lose enough Republicans so that this could never get 60 votes.