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The dirty dozen: A ‘super congress?’

By LAURIE KELLMAN
August 3, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., center, accompanied by fellow Senate Democratic leaders, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, after passage of the emergency legislation to prevent a default on government debt obligations. From left are, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Reid, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Ill (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The nation’s bills are being paid and Congress has bolted the hothouse of Washington, one debt limit deadline beaten and another ahead for a dozen yet-to-be-named lawmakers.

They might want to hold off making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans.

For the six Republicans and six Democrats, the toughest-to-swallow items on the deficit-cutting menu await. This group, to be named from the House and Senate in two weeks, must find at least $1.2 trillion in budget cuts by Thanksgiving and Congress must approve them by year’s end — or take the blame for deep and broad spending cuts that would strike GOP priorities like defense and Democratic favorites like programs for the poor.

And then lawmakers would have to explain the cuts to their constituents — up close and personally, on the campaign trail next year.

Facing the select group are a lot of the same “peas” that a frustrated President Barack Obama suggested Congress “eat” earlier in the difficult debate. Then as now, Democrats insist on balancing tax revenues with spending cuts. Republicans say taxes are off the table. That alone is a recipe for the same sort of staring contest that kept the sides from agreeing to raise the nation’s $14.3 trillion borrowing limit until hours before the money was to run out Tuesday.

On Sunday night, the combatants agreed to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.1 trillion in deficit cuts over a decade. The House overcame objections from conservatives Monday and passed the agreement with bipartisan support, 269-161. The Senate followed on Tuesday, 74-26. Obama signed the bill less than two hours later.

Talk immediately turned to the 12 House and Senate lawmakers and how the task awaiting them looks much like the ideological divide that was bridged only by the debt ceiling deadline and the threat of economic disaster.

The new panel’s target is to find $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade, including interest savings. Congress will have until Christmas to vote on the recommendations.

As an incentive for Congress to act, failure to do so would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, affecting the Pentagon as well as domestic programs.

In the afterglow of the deal’s passage Tuesday, Senate leaders were optimistic.

“Hanging over the head of the joint committee is this trigger that is pretty drastic,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.

“The joint committee is not going to gridlock,” said the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. The panel is “designed to function and to tackle some of the very difficult problems that we have been unwilling or unable to deal with.”

The agreement enacted Tuesday calls for $917 billion in discretionary spending to be cut over a decade from Cabinet-level agencies and the thousands of programs they administer.

The new committee will scour the so-called mandatory side of the budget — programs whose spending levels run on autopilot. They include Medicare and Medicaid, the government’s health care for seniors and the poor, as well as Social Security and veterans’ retirement benefits.

This panel could proceed from the work of others. A group led by Vice President Joe Biden that tried to find savings for the debt limit bill broke apart over Democratic demands on taxes but had made some progress in developing a consensus package of cuts to programs like farm subsidies, federal pensions and military health benefits. Cuts to Medicare providers like skilled nursing facilities and home health care also were discussed.

There’s no doubt presidential politics will loom over the new negotiations.

Even before the president signed the legislation, he and Republicans were maneuvering for political position on the next stage.

“We can’t balance the budget on the backs of people who have borne the biggest brunt of this recession,” the president said, renewing his call for higher taxes on the wealthy. “Everyone is going to have to chip in. It’s only fair.”

Senate Republicans said it won’t happen.

“I’m comfortable we aren’t going to raise taxes coming out of this joint committee,” McConnell said in an interview with Fox on Monday.

In a speech shortly before the vote, he predicted instead a renewal of the most recent struggle over spending cuts.

The debt limit will have to be raised shortly after the 2012 election, he said, predicting that no president of either party will be “allowed to raise the debt ceiling without … having to engage in the kind of debate we’ve just been through.”

He conceded that Republicans got only part of what they wanted in the deal, and he pointed to next year’s elections — with control of the White House and Congress at stake — as a chance to gain greater clout.

“Republicans only control one half of one third of the federal government, but the American people agree with us,” he said.

Reid said the period immediately ahead “is going to be painful.”

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11 Responses to The dirty dozen: A ‘super congress?’

  1. Keith

    August 3, 2011 at 8:15 am

    More than anything, what this country needs right now are more US federal politicians (particularly US Congressmen and Senators) standing in the unemployment line.

    • Sandune

      August 3, 2011 at 9:38 am

      Keith, Let';s make it happen!

  2. leftbehind

    August 3, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Stupor Committee will be more like it.

  3. griff

    August 3, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    “As an incentive for Congress to act, failure to do so would trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts, affecting the Pentagon as well as domestic programs.”

    Fail to act, please?

  4. griff

    August 3, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    The picture…Look at those power-drunk parasites, so f**king full of themselves, basking in their own delusions of grandeur and self-inportance.

    And we feed them.

  5. Almandine

    August 5, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Just another unconstitutional deflection of their responsibilities…

    • bmclellan

      August 5, 2011 at 9:50 am

      I’d like to know when the formal ceremony and the subsequent public burning of the Constitution and Bill of rights will take place ?
      Will the unemployed get the day off ?
      Hell, why stop there, gut the library of Congress and raze the Smithsonian in it’s entirety, for surely they can’t allow any rear view mirror to exist that will distract or remind. Hack..

  6. Carl Nemo

    August 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    This article has been stewing about in my mind since it was posted on August 3rd.

    When Mitch McConnell was launching the idea of passing an amendment that would allow the President to act as an emergency authority to raise debt limits etc.; bypassing their Constitutional reponsibilities as lawmakers, it put me on yellow alert. Evidently my apprehension was justified.

    I’m going to post a link as to what powers have been created by these joint bodies coming up with the idea of a ‘Super Congress’ or more appropriately “the gang of twelve” in future legislative squabbles.

    Seemingly certain rules of order concerning the passage of laws is being abrogated in future debt limit discussions etc. I’ll supply a link that outlines the hidden agenda behind this scheme of creating an ‘Americanski’ version of a ‘Supreme Soviet’ over our now devolved Congress, simply a hand-clapping politburo.

    http://paracom.paramountcommunication.com/hostedemail/email.htm?h=ce3ec5796abd1067151231fb560cc5e0&CID=9526283197&ch=1DBA999A448FDAC6E7A72360F784FE76

    Disclaimer: I am not a member of the “Washington Campaign for Liberty”.

    IMO the content is worth reviewing. It causes me grave concern concerning the continued degradation of our representative bodies. This will also explain why a premier ratings agency have decided to punish the U.S. credit markets with a downgrade from AAA to AA+. This is only the beginning of the unraveling or ouf currency system and the Republic.

    Carl Nemo **==

    • b mcclellan

      August 7, 2011 at 12:40 pm

      They all await their Gloria Swanson moment Carl.
      As if poised in the doorway with smoldering fag dangling from the thin lips of our suspended dreams, ever emanating false stability and their freedom from the constraints of their oath to our now lost republic.

      Goddamn the pusher man !

  7. Carl Nemo

    August 7, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Great imagery Bryan. The woman standing to the right of Harry Reid is none other than Senator Patty Murray-Dem aka as “The Queen of Pork”. She’s one of my Washington State senators. She’s never met a tax debtor dollar that she didn’t want to squander on ‘feelgood’ projects. Over the years she’s embraced veterans affairs, no doubt to ensure her incumbency; but I question the huge expenditures in the face of ongoing VA mismanagement of our tax dollars supported by their miserable operational track record, regardless of the gleaming medical edifices they build for our vets.

    Carl Nemo **==

  8. b mcclellan

    August 7, 2011 at 2:29 pm

    It just comes out that way Carl, can’t explain it so let’s fry some cold fish.

    Where did the belief go that if elected to serve,
    the individual is bound by honor to set aside personal agenda and become an employee of the people ?

    Where did the now highly held sentiment originate from,
    that once ensconced in office,
    loyalty, preference, fear and fealty, go to the highest bidder ?

    When did we the people become the low-ball side of negotiators ?
    Fer Christs sake, I’m not sure if they not dare we,
    too raise our musket’s again, or care.

    The theater is seated
    the audience captive omitted
    Very young, that elusive where
    too young to say
    Office is nae an easy chair