Congressional super comittee shooting blanks on finding solution to reduce the deficit

But before we get to A.B. Stoddard's analysis, let's look at what has been happening in D.C.

As is usually the case when you hear Republicans and Democrats arguing about how best to cut the deficit, we're living in a parallel universe, where the Republicans insist the Democrats aren't serious about doing anything about Medicare or Social Security, and Dems blame Grover Norquist for their ideological devoting to not offending him and discuss raising taxes, er, I mean revenues.

Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl said that the Republicans in the super committee have proposed raising revenues, in the form of getting rid of loopholes, as he told David Gregory on NBC's Meet The Press.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, the other side of that is how Republicans feels about taxes. And it is the heart of the matter. The question is whether the fix was in from the beginning. Grover Norquist, the anti-tax crusader in Washington who, if you hear critics, holds sway over all the Republicans on Capitol Hill, this is what he said to The Hill newspaper this week. The headline, "GOP leaders promised me no new taxes. I've talked to the House leadership and the Senate leadership. They're not going to be passing any tax increases." So was this really a good faith offer to raise taxes?
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SEN. KYL: Well, he's not happy with it, obviously. It was a big step for Republicans, and I think it's the only news that's really come out of this. If you look at the Democrats' position, it was, "We have to raise taxes, we have to pass this jobs bill," which is another almost half a trillion dollars, "and we're not excited about entitlement reform." The only real breakthrough here, and the word breakthrough was used by my colleague Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, was the Republican offer to actually increase the amount of revenues through, through...

MR. GREGORY: But let's talk about the balance.

SEN. KYL: Well, let me just finish my sentence.


SEN. KYL: Through the tax code, which would largely fall on the upper two brackets of taxpayers. That was a big breakthrough for Republicans.

Kyl ended his segment by saying the Democrats weren't serious about finding places to cut entitlements.
So then John Kerry came on the program, he responded bluntly that Kyl was essentially full of it:

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA): Well, I'm glad we're starting right there because what Jon just said is patently not true. We just cut $917 billion without one dime of new revenue. He knows it. We just did it. We cut $550 billion in the healthcare act from Medicare. We didn't raise—I mean, you know, this is just nonsense. Look, David, if, if this weren't so, so serious I, I might laugh. But, you know, the United States of America is in a position right now in Europe, financial system crumbling. You asked about a downgrade a moment ago. The downgrade may—they may look at the $1.2 trillion of sequester, but Jon just talked about how they're not going to do that sequester. He just talked about how they're going to get out from under it. There is a real threat that, not only will there be a downgrade, but that the market on Monday will look again at Washington and say, "You guys can't get the job done." And just the political confusion and gridlock is enough to say to the world, "America can't get its act together."

MR. GREGORY: And—but is there a path for something to get done, or is...

SEN. KERRY: Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY: There is. And what is that?

SEN. KERRY: We, we could have a deal—in the next two hours, we could have an agreement, a solution to this problem. We could cut $1.2 trillion, and we could do it tomorrow morning, we could put it before the nation and get this job done. And there are only two things blocking us from doing that. One, and I've heard this from Republicans in the Senate and in the House who say to me, "The calculation politically has been made by many that they think they're going to win the Senate, win the presidency, and they want to wait until next year and just write their own deal." And the second and most significant block to our doing something right now, tomorrow, is their insistence, insistence, insistence on the Grover Norquist pledge and extending the Bush tax cuts. Now we are not a tax-cutting committee. We're a deficit-reduction committee. And everybody out there has said to us, "Go big. Do $4 trillion." We Democrats put a $4 trillion deal on the table, and it included huge, hard, though, horrible reductions on the sacred cows and things that we have been accused of not being willing to do. We put it out there. I've had demonstrations outside my offices in Boston. I've had people screaming at me because we'd even dare to think of doing this. But they went—they wouldn't accept it. They wouldn't accept a $1.3 trillion cut, $1.3 trillion revenue.

MR. GREGORY: But you just heard him talking about the Toomey plan, Senator Toomey...
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MR. GREGORY: reform. Yes, it will lower top rates, but because you close loopholes and whatnot, you heard Senator Kyl say it would raise revenue.

SEN. KERRY: All right, let me...

MR. GREGORY: I mean, Senator Durbin said it was a breakthrough. Senator Durbin said it was a breakthrough.

SEN. KERRY: Well, let's talk about—yeah, and Senator Durbin then retreated from that when he saw the numbers. Look, Grover Norquist said this of the Toomey plan. He called it a unicorn, and then he laughed and he said, "And as you know, unicorns don't exist." The Toomey plan, first of all, doesn't exist on paper. It's an idea. I was at the meeting when it was put out there...

But let's leave the final word not to a politician, but a closely observing D.C. based-reporter, in this case A.B. Stoddard of the Hill newspaper.

Stoddard said on Fox News Sunday that all of the kvetching over not making a deal is a lot of drama - and that this battle is all going to be what we lived through last year - arguing about whether or not to retain the Bush tax cuts on those making more than $250,000 a little over a year from now:

But we are staring down the barrel of failure and we are because the committee was designed to fail. There are no consequences. There is ultimately not nearly a trigger.

There are 13 months until January of 2013 for the triggered cuts to be rescinded. They will be rescinded next in the lame duck session next December following the election. And we will not have the cuts that everyone talks about being so draconian to the Pentagon or elsewhere.

WALLACE: Do you think they will be changed or rescinded?

STODDARD: They will be — they might be replaced. But I think you heard the Congressman Becerra starting to worry that maybe that is a slippery slope. Once you abdicate your responsibility to those triggered cuts specifically, perhaps you are actually going to move the number of 1.2.

So that is a slippery slope, but we're not see those cuts that everyone keeps saying they are so scared of. Those are gone. OK. The Pentagon is not going to take the hit. It was supposed to be sort of Damocles over the committee. So they've known all along no default, no deadline, no consequences.

What you are going to see now is a fight over the next year over how to replace those cuts with other cuts. This time only 535 cooks in the kitchen, you don't have a filibuster-proof product. And you have conservatives who came here to cut everything, who have cut little, who voted to raise the debt ceiling, and are now going to begin to fight over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which of course would have...

HUME: They passed — the House Republicans passed a tough budget. And what happened to it? It went to the Senate, which passed no budget.

STODDARD: You know, Brit? Brit, I think they are going home unhappy they haven't changed enough of the bottom line now. Whether the Senate did that or not, I think that they are going to be fighting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts, that is the fight over the next 12 months and how to remove those Pentagon cuts.

But there is an immediate fight that Mark Zandi was referring to. There is on the table an effort to stop the cuts to Medicare payments to doctors and extend UI, unemployment insurance benefits, and also the pay roll tax cut. That is $200 billion in new deficit spending.

So we have an immediate fight to keep the government open, and then a whole year long fight ahead.

But there was never any consequence for this.

Nothing much to add to that.

  • D.C. reporter A.B. Stoddard says feared defense cuts will never happen in budget discussions

The deadline for the 12-member Congressional super committee to come up with $1.5 trillion in cuts and taxes to reduce the federal deficit is expected to result that they in announcement that, guess what? They didn't come up with a compromise.

Which really is sort of lame. And oh so typical. And it's why Congress has an approval rating of 9 percent, leading West Virginia conservative Democratic Senator Joe Manchin to say to CBS' Bob Schieffer Sunday that he's still trying to find that 9 percent."I'm ashamed," he said of another national political failure. "I have to apologize for what we're doing."

Manchin was one of a host of members of Congress to take to the broadcast and cable airwaves on Sunday to bemoan what happens if in fact a deal isn't arrived at this week - which in the unlikely event that it was, means Congress would have to a month to vote on it.

Theoretically $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will automatically occur otherwise, including $500 billion from defense, which has Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and some Republicans freaking out - but one analyst says that will never happen.

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