Sunday, November 20, 2011

Super Committee kryptonite.

Super Sub Committee is facing Kryptonite for it's deadline , where's Obama?

Regardless, one would think that the expression of outrage and revulsion from the public in response to the shenanigans during the debt ceiling crisis would have been enough for our political leaders to cautiously avoid backing themselves into another such scenario. But not so. Along with new rules for student loans and forcing a vote on a constitutional amendment that everyone knows has no chance of passing, and oh-by-the-way raising the debt limit, Congress included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 a few time bombs .There's a subtle divide between what some Super Committee members are saying publicly and what's going on behind closed doors as the deadline looms to trim the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion in the next nine days. In rare television appearances, Super Committee Republicans Jeb Hensarling and Patrick Toomey spoke on CNN's State of the Union and Fox News Sunday respectively, telegraphing serious doubts on the likelihood of an agreement and opening the door to deferring powers away from the committee or even scrapping the trigger designed to automatically-impose budget cuts. All the while, various reports from inside the Super Committee show some broad outlines of a deal between Democrats and Republicans emerging, though still far from certain
Seems to me the media have been perfectly sanguine about the complete failure of the federal government to pass a budget in how many years? As far as I am concerned that's an abdication of their constitutional duty. But if that has been okey-dokey since the present administration came into power, why should anyone be that the Super Committee is merely a stall. Lots of sound and fury, as someone said.The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, a.k.a. Supercommitte, whose 12 members were picked by congressional leaders in the House and Senate, and who are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, and who for some reason we prefer to call 'Super' and not 'Ultra' or 'Mega' or 'New and Improved', have until November 23 to agree on deficit reduction legislation and report back to both houses of Congress. If the Supercommittee is unable to arrive at an agreement and detonates the first time bomb on November 23, the special provisions that would allow for a simple majority up or down vote in both houses of Congress will expire (sec. 402 (g)). What is so significant about November 23, 2011? As far as I can tell it is either 1) completely arbitrary or 2) part of a plot to ruin Thanksgiving. Otherwise, I'm not sure what reason there could be for setting a three month deadline on a proposal regarding debt that will be incurred over the next ten years.Once the proposal is in Congress, provisions written into the Budget Control Act limits debate in both houses, forbids amendments in both houses, and forbids filibusters in the Senate. Both the House and Senate must pass the bill by December 23rd to avoid the second time bomb, again the penalty being that the special debate limits on the bill will expire. And what is so significant about December 23, 2011? As far as I can tell it is either 1) completely arbitrary or 2) part of a plot to ruin Christmas .Can the two sides breach the gap? As the Nov. 23 deadline looms, we'll find out soon enough..

If both of the above artificial deadlines are missed, it is still possible for Congress to avoid the final ultimate artificial deadline of January 15, 2012 (sec. 302 (a)) by passing any joint committee bill that reduces the deficit by $1.2 trillion. And what is so significant about January 15, 2012? As far as I can tell it is either 1) completely arbitrary or 2) part of a plot to ruin MLK day. If the last time bomb goes off on January 15, cuts will occur through a process called sequestration, which sounds like something the Humane Society might do to a stray dog, but actually means “sequestering” funds above a certain cap, even if those funds had been previously allocated.

Sequestration would not affect the budget across-the-board, as certain entitlement programs are exempt. I've seen reported various lists of items that would not be touched by these automatic cuts, all of which seem include to Medicaid. But first hand information has been difficult for me to come by, as many of the provisions in the Budget Control Act of 2011 are amendments to the Budget Control Act of 1985 (known as Gramm-Rudman) and amendments to the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, neither of which I have been able to find online.

Discretionary spending caps can be found in Section 302 of this years bill for years 2013-2021, divided between security and non-security categories.

To summarize, a deadline regarding debt, whether real or imagined, made fools of us all earlier in the year and resulted in our nation's first ever credit downgrade. So Congress decided it would be a great idea to schedule a few more of these embarrassing episodes over the next five months and relegated much of it's legislative responsibility to a Supercommittee.

And if the Supercommitte doesn't work out, maybe Congress will consider seeking assistance from Batman. It makes at least as much sense as anything they've done so far regarding this issue.

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