Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why The Supercommittee Was Doomed

It's confession time. The eventual outcome of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as "the Supercommittee", was so obvious that I wrote most of this blog two weeks ago. There was no reason why there would be an outcome other than failure.

The Supercommittee was composed of twelve members, evenly divided among the bicameral Congress and evenly subdivided among the two major political parties. It was supposed to be a tool for getting around the stalemate between the Democrat-controlled US Senate and the Republican-controlled US House of Representatives.
U.S. Congressman Pat Toomey
Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Image via Wikipedia
There is a non-profit, non-partisan, conservative organization called The Club for Growth. It measures the economic policy votes cast by members of Congress. Members favor low tax rates, free trade, limited spending, repeal of the inheritance tax and regulatory reform among other things. You may or may not agree with their positions, but they issue a scorecard that is a convenient measuring stick for the comparison of the Supercommittee members' approach to taxes and spending.

In the following paragraph is a list of members, their home state and their party affiliation. In parenthesis are their lifetime Club for Growth ratings. I've included this as a way for readers to see where members stand relative to each other. Two members have not been in office long enough to have a rating. You may wish to know that Senator Toomey, one of those two members, is a former head of Club for Growth. So though Toomey does not have a rating, if you pencil in 100%, you would likely be very close.

There are three Republican house members named by House Speaker John Boehner (Jeb Hensarling - TX (100%), Dave Camp - MI (69%) and Fred Upton - MI (54%)); three Republican senate members named by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Jon Kyl - AZ (94%), Pat Toomey - PA (N/A), and Bob Portman - OH (N/A)); three Democratic house members named by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (James Clyburn - SC (5%), Xavier Becerra - CA (7%), and Chris Van Hollen - MD (6%)); and, three Democratic senate members named by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Max Baucus - MT (13%), John Kerry - MA (3%), and Patty Murray - WA (6%)).
WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 16: Senate Finance Com...
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT)
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

A while back I wrote that the Supercommittee would reach agreement unless one side found a political advantage in failure. The poll results have consistently found that Republicans would bear the brunt of the blame. This dovetails well with President Obama's strategy of running against "a do-nothing Congress" to avoid responsibility for his own failures.

So when President Obama came out today and pointedly spoke as a partisan party hack instead of as the President of the United States, conservatives were not surprised. As expected he lambasted the GOP Supercommittee members and held his fellow Democrats harmless. It was no surprise because Democrats had ensured there was no deal because it is the only way Obama wins re-election. He could not have continued to run against a do-nothing Congress if a deal had been reached.

There are two things that you should remember when judging the parties on their relative merits. Democrats, who control the US Senate, have failed to pass a budget in over 900 days. Second, the GOP-controlled US House has already passed a budget this year that reduces the federal deficit by more than the required $1.2 trillion over 10 years.

The Senate voted down the House plan, which included a necessary adjustment to entitlement programs, in May. If you'll remember, when the Republicans began bringing forth budget plans, Democrats said the plans were not serious unless they addressed entitlement reforms. The GOP plan, chiefly authored by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), addressed entitlements with minor changes, but garnered only 47 votes in the US Senate and so it failed.

The Senate did not offer a compromise and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has hidden under a rock and refused to address budget issues since that time. Democrats hope the voters will not remember this. I hope the Democrats are as wrong about that as they are wrong to abdicate their responsibilities to the American people. Time will tell.

by Ken Carroll
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