"But 10 days before their deadline, members of the so-called congressional "super committee" created to forge a deficit reduction deal indicated Sunday that they remain hung up on basic issues of tax and entitlement reform that have previously stymied agreement.
"Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the panel's Republican co-chair, told CNN's 'State of the Union' that the only solution possible might be a two-step process in which the bipartisan committee sets a figure for increased tax revenue that congressional committees would then implement through legislation.
"'There could be a two step process that would hopefully give us pro-growth tax reform,' Hensarling said."Doesn't the suggestion that there have been only two steps to this process make you giggle? Let me see if I've got the relevant facts straight:
In the 2010 legislative session, the House and Senate decided that they couldn't be bothered passing budgets that would lay the groundwork for the passage of normal congressional appropriation bills because the Simpson-Bowles Debt Commission was already on the job. That gave Democrats the excuse they needed to avoid revealing their budgetary priorities to the electorate in advance of the 2010 election. Call that Punt I. Punt II came in the spring of 2011 when the Democratic Senate and the White House were too busy to continue with the 2011 budget-setting process because they were negotiating a series of continuing budget resolutions with House Republicans to fund the government through September under the threat of a government shutdown. The sigh of relief we emitted when a deal was reached taking us to end of the fiscal year was premature, however, because the kicking game was just getting started.
After the threat of a government shutdown subsided, the Senate couldn't be bothered passing a budget in response to the one passed by the House in April because Democrats and Republicans were already skirmishing over the terms and conditions for raising the debt-ceiling at the beginning of August--if you're still counting, that's Punt III. Punt IV was launched when Democrats and Republicans agreed to kick the budgetary ball to the bipartisan Super Committee so that it could figure out how to meet the arbitrary budgetary goals that emerged from the August debt-ceiling negotiations. We were assured at the time that the Super Committee would keep possession of the ball until it finished its work because, if it failed to reach a deal, entitlement and defense cuts would kick in that, taken together, were intolerable to both Democrats and Republicans.
Now we're hearing the only shot that the Super Committee has of reaching another nominal agreement involves kicking the ball back to Senate and House budget and tax committees so that they can figure out how to meet yet another set of negotiated budgetary goals. By my count, it has now taken five punts to get the budgetary ball back to the people who punted it away in the first place. Luckily, I still have five fingers on my left hand and ten toes on my feet to call into service when the ball starts bouncing again.
So now we're headed for an election fought over which side is responsible for the government's failure to settle on budgetary priorities rather than over what our budgetary priorities ought to be. Incredible.