Although the new congressional super committee has not yet met, its co-chairs say panel members are busy “reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years.”
The committee’s leaders, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), issued a statement last week that also struck a welcome bipartisan note, saying that they were “working together to ensure that the committee we help build is given every opportunity to succeed.”
The Concord Coalition and other advocates of fiscal reform have encouraged the committee to give strong consideration to the comprehensive proposals developed by the President’s commission, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, the Senate’s “Gang of Six” and other bipartisan groups.
News reports today said Mark Prater, currently on the Senate Finance Committee staff, had been named staff director of the super committee.
The super committee is charged with finding most of the deficit reduction that was promised in Washington’s recent debt limit agreement. In blog posts on The American Square, Joe Antos, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director, discussed the high hurdles facing the panel.
“The political and philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans is as great as it has ever been,” Antos writes. “ The left demands protection for the big social programs, and the right will not consider tax increases. We are already in the midst of presidential election season, which further inhibits attempts at compromise.”
Bixby hopes the super committee “will recognize the need for compromise and get right to it, rather than pass up this opportunity and wait for a crisis.” He encourages the panel to aim for a “grand bargain” that would exceed their assigned target of $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. To do that, however, Bixby said the committee would “need to look at the two areas that have been the major stumbling block so far: health care and taxes.”
In a Christian Science Monitor op-ed yesterday, Concord Chief Economist Diane Lim Rogers suggested that the super panel could become “superheroes” in part by focusing on ways to stimulate the economy without raising the deficit. This would be possible, she said, by “steering funds away from spending and tax cuts that offer low ‘bang for the buck’ economic stimulus and toward higher ‘bang’ policies.”