Via Ezra Klein and the Washington Post, the Supercommittee is failing to reach a compromise agreement. The “trigger” is about to be pulled.
I reported from the beginning on several occasions that this would be the conclusion. The Supercommittee is the product of a super colossal failure to govern sabotaged by a dysfunctional congress.
“Six days left for the supercommittee, and it's not looking good. On CNBC last night, Rep. Jeb Hensarling, the Republican co-chair of the committee, said he and his colleagues had “gone as far as we feel we can go" on taxes, and that "any penny of increased static revenue is a step in the wrong direction." In other words, Republicans aren't looking to compromise further. But Hensarling went yet further than that. If the supercommittee fails, he said, Republicans are looking to undo the compromises they have already made.
The issue is "the trigger," the policy that automatically cuts the deficit by $1.2 trillion in the event that the supercommittee fails. Half of those cuts are scheduled to come from domestic spending (excluding Social Security, Medicaid, and a few other programs that help te poor). That's the stick for Democrats. Half of them are scheduled to come from the Pentagon. That's the stick for Republicans. But last night, Hensarling said the defense cuts are too onerous, and so "we've got 13 months to find a smarter way to do it." By "a smarter way to do it," he means a way that eases the cuts to defense and, since Republicans aren't going to replace those defense cuts with new taxes, increases the cuts to domestic programs.
In comments to reporters yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was firm on this point: the defense cuts in the trigger were the GOP's concessions after they refused to include taxes in the trigger, and they're not going anywhere. "If committee fails to act, sequestration is going to go forward," he told reporters. "Democrats aren’t going to take an unfair, unrealistic load directed toward domestic discretionary spending and take it away from the military."
Behind the scenes, the White House has taken a similar line: the trigger can't be changed to exempt defense and fall more heavily on domestic spending. That isn't the same as saying the trigger can't be changed. But Democrats aren't going to be enthusiastic about keeping the part meant to penalize them for the supercommittee's failure while helping Republicans move the bit that was meant to be their punishment.
But we'll see. Democrats haven't always been known to hold the line on defense cuts. The bigger issue here, however, is that Republicans are setting a bad precedent for future deals. Republicans are talking about unwinding the trigger before the supercommittee has even finished its work. They are, in other words, reneging on the terms of the debt-ceiling deal. So why should Democrats who are hearing this expect they'll abide by the terms of a deal that calls for revenue-increasing tax reform in six months?
The reality is, the supercommittee might not just end without reaching a deal. It might end by undoing a previous deal, and by making the two sides trust each other less i future deals. That's not just failure. That's sabotage.
Perhaps you could do better, however. This morning, the Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative unveiled their "Budget Challenge": an online deficit-reduction calculator that lets you choose from almost every policy the supercommittee is known to be considering, and quite a few they're not. You may have used deficit calculators before, but probably not one this detailed. Pretty much the only thing you can't do is go back on the defense cuts in the trigger. That's such advanced budgetary work, even the wonks leave it to Congress.”