The Super Committee, what we’ve been calling Catfood Commission II, held its first meeting today. There wasn’t much on the agenda, just the internal governing rules of how the committee will proceed, under the direction of co-chairs Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Both sides are talking about compromise and the need for action, but a lot of that talk can be dismissed as empty. The fault line that’s starting to emerge is over whether job creation strategies should be part of the Super Committee’s work.

Although Murray said she agreed that the “deep and long-term deficit and long-term debt” is placing an “overwhelming burden” on the nation and future generations, she and other Democrats spent more time talking about the desperate need for job creation, while Republicans led by Hensarling argued that reducing the deficit is a jobs-plan in and of itself.

“Deficit reduction and a path to sustainability is itself a jobs program,” Hensarling asserted.

Democrats on the committee have signaled a preference for jobs ideas, although it’s unclear whether they would ask CBO to use those to model future growth rates upward, which would lower deficits. Rep. John Larson (D-CT) has a bill to this effect, a Super Committee for jobs, and the aptly named American Jobs ACt that President Obama will introduce tonight could provide a template for that hypothetical committee. But I don’t see much hope of that getting through.

There is a way for the President to use the veto power to say he would not sign any Super Committee bill that didn’t include jobs measures, but there’s been no mention of that to this point.

One thing we do know: the lobbyist money will flow freely on the Super Committee.

Like many federal contractors, General Electric has a lot riding on the work of a new congressional “supercommittee,” which will help decide whether to impose massive cuts in defense and health-care spending.
But the Connecticut-based conglomerate also has a potential advantage: A number of its lobbyists used to work for members of the committee, and will be able to lobby their former employers to limit the impact of any reductions in the weeks ahead.

GE is hardly alone: Nearly 100 registered lobbyists used to work for members of the supercommittee, now representing defense companies, health-care conglomerates, Wall Street banks and others with a vested interest in the panel’s outcome, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Three Democrats and three Republicans on the panel also employ former industry lobbyists on their staffs.[...]

“When the committee sits down to do its work, it’s not like they’re in an idealized, platonic debating committee,” said Bill Allison, editorial director of the Sunlight Foundation, which is tracking ties between lobbyists and the panel. “They’re going to have in mind the interests of those they are most familiar with, including their big donors and former advisers.”

Considering that committee members will not even be able to agree on the causes of the deficit, and therefore have no consistent road map for how to best reduce it, I think the smart money is on either a solution that protects the favored industries of committee members, or no solution at all. Indeed the latter looks likely, as committee member Max Baucus is already scheduling tax reform hearings on the Senate Finance Committee, well outside the Super Committee process. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp is interested in using the normal committee process for that as well, and he’s also a Super Committee member.

All signs point to the trigger getting pulled, and then nothing happening because the trigger cuts don’t get implemented until 2013, giving ample opportunity for fixes in the interim that avoid those cuts. The lobbying won’t stop with the committee, in other words.