In a most unsurprising bit of news, the Super Committee, the group of 12 lawmakers tasked with coming up with at least a $1.2 trillion deficit package, isn’t able to agree on anything, and is slowly morphing from a Gang of 12 to a Gang of Obama Boehner and Reid You Figure It Out:
With just five weeks until its deadline, a secretive Congressional committee seeking ways to cut the federal deficit is far from a consensus, and party leaders may need to step in if they want to ensure agreement, say people involved in the panel’s work.
The 12-member committee is just over halfway through the 76-day interval from its first meeting to the date its final report is due on Nov. 23, but has not gained much traction. The lawmakers have not agreed on basic elements like a benchmark against which savings will be measured.
The panel’s members, evenly divided between the two parties, spent most of September in a standoff. Republicans refused to budge from their position against new taxes. Democrats said they would not discuss cuts to entitlement programs like Medicare unless Republicans made a firm commitment to accept additional revenues [...]
A Republican who has worked on Capitol Hill for more than two decades said: “Basically we are going in circles. It’s going very, very slowly. The only way this will work is if the leaders decide they want to get a deal and lay down parameters. Everybody is sitting around sucking their thumb until they get some guidance on what to do.”
Really nobody on that panel is an independent figure; most of the members are reliable lieutenants for the leadership. And we saw this summer with the debt limit deliberations that nobody really wants to sign their name to a deal. Perhaps the President, but certainly nobody else. And what the President offered back in July does not fully resemble what he offered a month ago.
I’m entertained by the description of John Kerry as expressing “a waterfall of words” in the committee’s private meetings, but outside of wanting to hear that, I don’t think much is getting done. The issue is simple: John Boehner wasn’t going to agree to tax hikes in July, and he’s not going to agree to tax hikes now. There was a thought that the trigger cuts, particularly to defense, would somehow create an incentive to negotiate. It didn’t because nobody actually believes that the trigger will be pulled. Congress has all of 2012 to dispense with those trigger cuts, and that’s the likely outcome.
I guess the Gang of Six got an audience with the Super Committee, and I suppose there’s still a chance for some miracle to be pulled out. But it’s really not likely at this point. My prediction is that $1 trillion of the $1.2 trillion in solutions, if they even get to that point, will end up being that cap on war spending from the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan. That was in Reid’s deficit bill and the Paul Ryan budget. It’s mostly an accounting gimmick but it will come in very handy.