Monday, August 1, 2011

Deal or No Deal?

Well after months of political bickering, posturing, and outright stupidity, a Debt Ceiling compromise was announced last night by President Obama that had the approval of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and House Speaker John Boehner. As of last night, all seemed good with the deal and that while there were complaints from both extremes of the political spectrum, the deal looked like a sure thing.

Here is a brief summary courtesy POLITICO's Jonathan Allen:


President Barack Obama has a fairly easy path to getting the debt ceiling raised between $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion. Initially, the debt limit is increased by $400 billion, when the president certifies that it is within $100 billion of being exceeded. An additional $500 billion cap room is created if Congress does not pass, with veto-proof majorities, a resolution disapproving of the increase sought by the president. The total up-front increase is $900 billion, assuming that there’s not enough support in Congress to stop it. Another $1.2 trillion hike occurs when the president seeks it — but that figure would rise to $1.5 trillion if a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution has been sent to the states for ratification or a level between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion if a new deficit-reduction committee’s plan is enacted and its legislation exceeds $1.2 trillion savings. The $1.2 trillion increase could be halted if Congress approves a joint resolution of disapproval, which is unlikely.


The deal puts in place the annual discretionary spending caps found in the bill the Republican-controlled House passed last week worth about $917 billion in cuts over 10 years. But those caps, from $1.043 trillion in fiscal 2012 to $1.234 trillion in fiscal 2021, are now split between “security” and “non-security” spending, enforceable by across-the-board cuts. The bill defines the “security category” as ‘discretionary appropriations associated with agency budgets for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Nuclear Security Administration, the intelligence community management account, and all budget accounts under international affairs.


The top leaders in each party in each chamber would appoint three members to a 12-person joint select committee that would be charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion or more in deficit reduction. The committee would report by Nov. 23, and the bill provides for expedited floor procedures for voting in each chamber by December 23. If the committee fails to report a bill by Nov. 23 — or either house fails to act within a month after that — the committee loses its special privileges.


If Congress doesn’t act on the supercommittee recommendations — or if the new law doesn’t meet the deficit-reduction goals — new cuts based on the difference between $1.2 trillion and whatever is enacted (perhaps nothing) would go into effect. The reductions would be divided equally between security and non-security programs.

Firstly, the "Super Committee" as it's now being called is something that should be watched VERY CAREFULLY. Shockingly, both Conservatives and Liberals are raising alarms about the creation of this Super Committee which while theoretically cuts through the red tape of Congress, it also could theoretically create a quasi-third chamber of Congress and the precedent set by its creation now could be used to justify the use of such a body in the future and logically the abuse of this committee's laid out powers to circumvent Congress.

Now not surprisingly, both Conservatives and Liberals are not altogether pleased with this deal as a whole. Liberals are upset because the possibility of cuts to welfare and domestic programs and are feel as though the President put his own re-election ahead of his principles by not demanding revenues increases in return for the cuts being proposed. Conservatives are somewhat divided by the deal because the "Twit" branch of the GOP still thinks the debt ceiling shouldn't be raised at all and more "grounded" conservatives who are glad there are no tax increases but are skeptical of the President's sudden reversal.

Now as I mentioned earlier, as of last night and early this morning, it seemed like the deal was going to get passed without much trouble (relatively). That all has changed during the day. Now there are a growing number of Republicans in both house who are not supporting the bill and even one who is hinting at filibustering the deal. Likewise, Nancy Pelosi (leader of the Democrats in the House) is making it clear that a majority of Democrats in the House will not support the bill. Combine this with the growing number of dissident GOP'ers suddenly Mr. Boehner's ability to pass the bill through the House of Representatives is now far from certain.

So for the moment, the chances of this bill making it through both houses by the deadline tomorrow is far from certain and Americans should stay tuned and send their elected officials a clear message of where they stand and make it clear that we will hold them responsible for their actions in the next 24 hours...

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