Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction JCSDR

Posted: September 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

The new super committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction was officially named the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JCSDR). As structured, the committee must find $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years by 23 NOV and approve it with a majority vote in order to fast track it through Congress by Christmas. If the panel deadlocks along partisan lines, it would instead trigger across-the-board spending cuts in the orbit of $1.2 trillion with half of those cuts coming from defense, and the rest from discretionary spending. Entitlements would remain largely untouched if the cuts are triggered by inaction. Another possibility is that the panel could agree to spending cuts below their $1.5 trillion target, which if approved, would lower the trigger amount for spending cuts. For instance, if they approve $800 billion in spending cuts, it would still trigger sequestration, but lower the total from $1.2 trillion to $400 billion. However, lawmakers on the committee insisted on 10 AUG that their goal was to fulfill their obligation. Sen. Toomey told reporters that a comprehensive plan was "much, much preferred over the default settings."
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made it clear from the beginning that no Republican on the panel would vote in favor of tax increases of any kind, and their nominees reinforce that:
-Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) who walked out of the debt ceiling talks with Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) a former president of the anti-tax Club for Growth , and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)
-Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Rep. Jon Hensarling (R-TX) who both served on the special White House deficit-reduction Simpson-Bowles commission and voted against its recommendations for deficit reduction through spending cuts and revenue increases, and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI).
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) selections similarly underscores that Democrats are not going to sign off on any drastic entitlement changes ahead of an election cycle where Democratic control of the Senate is in question. Their nominees were:
-Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) who also served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted against its recommendations, and Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) selected for his stature and Senate tenure.
-Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC)the highest ranking African-American member of the House and the assistant Democratic leader, and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) the highest ranking Latino lawmaker in the House who served on the served on the Simpson-Bowles commission and voted against its recommendations.
None of the six senators tapped for the deficit reduction panel were part of the "Gang of Six" that has already done a lot of the leg work toward achieving the committee's goals. Sen. Murray will serve as co-chairwoman of the super committee while simultaneously running the Senate Democrats' campaign operation for 2012. She is also a member of leadership, a senior member of the Budget Committee, and a woman on a male-dominated committee.
Sen. Baucus is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over many areas, including entitlement programs, that the committee is expected to examine.
The panel will need at least seven of the 12 lawmakers to vote on a final proposal by Thanksgiving in order to fast-track it through both chambers and send it to President Obama by 23 DEC. If the panel deadlocks along partisan lines, it would trigger across-the-board cuts for both defense and non-defense spending. The chances of deadlock are rooted in the intractable partisan divide over taxes. Democrats want to raise them; in particular they want to roll back the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and use the revenue toward deficit reduction. Republicans are united against any tinkering with the tax code that is not revenue neutral and oppose any effort to raise revenues to pay down the debt. Republicans also want to target entitlement spending on programs including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but Democrats have ruled out any changes to entitlements unless taxes are on the table.
When precisely the committee will begin its work is unclear. Lawmakers return in September with just 77 days until the Nov. 23 deadline. [Source: National Journal Susan Davis articles 9 & 10 Aug 2011 ++]


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