The Reads You Need: Politics and failing debt talks
Lawmakers leave the Capitol on Friday to go home for Thanksgiving break while the 12-member "super committee" held talks.
November 21st, 2011
10:15 AM ET

The Reads You Need: Politics and failing debt talks

Editor's note: Each day, we'll bring you some of the diverse voices from our site and across the Web on stories causing ripples throughout the news sphere.

The congressional "super committee" charged with coming up with $1.2 trillion in budget cuts appears doomed for failure, with sources saying the panel will be unable to reach a deal before its practical deadline Monday.

The 12-member bipartisan panel's deadline for a final vote is Wednesday, but any blueprint must be made available 48 hours in advance of a committee vote and must be accompanied by a Congressional Budget Office analysis scoring how much it would reduce deficits.

If the panel fails to come up with the required cuts, automatic ones would be triggered in 2013 to reduce $1.2 trillion in spending, something CNNMoney calls the super committee's "escape hatch." Those cuts would be evenly divided between nondefense and defense items. If the cuts go that way,  Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. armed forces would be crippled.

Of course, no one in Washington really thinks that will happen as Congress made the law requiring the cuts, and lawmakers can change it however they like before 2013 rolls around.

On Monday morning, pundits on the Web were pointing out that politics still rule in the few months before a presidential election year and the divide between Democrats and Republicans shows no signs of being bridged.

The scientific analogy

A blog on The Economist says the super committee is more atom-smasher than friction reducer.

"The theory behind the super committee was that it would be a superconducting committee, eliminating the frictions caused by hundreds of clashing representatives in the House and Senate and zooming everyone straight along into a $1.2 billion deficit-reduction agreement. Instead, it seems to have become a supercolliding committee, focusing the two parties down into a narrower space so that the impact blasts everything into tiny subatomic particles."

That's because the two parties can't abandon the stances of their base voters, the article continues.

"For Democrats to have any chance of making gains in the 2012 elections, they need to demonstrate to their base that they will fight for higher taxes on the wealthy. They can't walk away from the super committee negotiations without a significant tax hike on the very rich. Similarly, it doesn't look like the Republicans can walk away from the super committee negotiations having allowed that to happen - if anything, they need to show they fought for a cut in the top marginal rate. Hence the supercommittee supercollider."

Read the full story here.

Pulling a victory from failure

Writing for Politico, Manu Raju and Jake Sherman say "both parties are quickly trying to figure out how to turn the committee’s embarrassing failure into a political win for their side."

Democrats will do so by saying they wouldn't OK a deal that didn't protect social programs while in some way increase taxes on the wealthy. Republicans will do that by saying they wouldn't give ground on demands that spending on entitlements take a hit.

Politico quotes senators from each party to show the hard line that exists in the panel.

“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,' " Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press” said Sunday.

“In Washington, there’s a group of folks that will not cut a dollar unless we also raise taxes,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said tersely Sunday.

Read the full story here.

Winners and losers

Writing on Time.com, Jay Newton-Small says "looming primaries - both presidential and congressional - have put bipartisan compromise even farther out of reach."

Newton-Small says congressional incumbents, congressional challengers, Democrats and President Barack Obama stand to gain from the super committee's failure.
Here's what he has to say about incumbents:

"If you’re, say, Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat who has a tough re-election test ahead of him next November, what incentive would you have to vote for entitlement cuts, which would risk the support Native American tribes, seniors, lower income voters - the trifecta of constituents that are pivotal to winning statewide in Montana. On the flip side, if you’re, say, Rep. Paul Gosar, an Arizona Republican freshman of the Tea Party persuasion, voting for increased revenue could leave you open not just to a primary challenge, but also vulnerable to a conservative Democrat in the general election."

But Newton-Small says there is one big loser in all this, the American people:
"Deficits remain a great threat to national security, as Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, once put it. The committee’s failure risks a stock market dive amid a widening European crisis and another potential downgrade of America’s bond rating status. Small business lending could get tougher because of this debacle, the recession could drag out and unemployment could continue to stagnate. There are probably a dozen more winners and losers that I could name on the political spectrum. But the fact of the matter is, whatever short-term political gains anyone gets out of this, in the long run the American people lose."

Read the full story here.

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Filed under: Congress • Democratic Party • Politics • Republican Party
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. goingfast

    FREE TRAVEL, FREE MEALS, MORE POWER, LET 'EM JOIN THE N.B.A.

    November 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Terry Brookman

    They have gone nuts in Washington, what a understatement. CNN finally catches on to something that has been in progress over sixty years. We have a fruit ball president that was put in power by the CIA and run by big business, we have a supreme court that has passed laws making in legal for the senate and congress to accept money from anyone, even a foreign power and the only thing they can agree on is when to give themselves a raise. Congress and the senate don't fight for the people they are in the pocket of various Co's and that is who they fight for. They can't reach a budget deal because they have never had to, the bank has always been open no matter what nonsense they wanted. At the top of the list is Obama right now and he spends most of his time in the White house doing vanity searches on the Internet to read all the good things people are saying about him. And his war policy looks the same way, I guess if he doesn't get enough good news he starts a war somewhere. I have been waiting for him to run out of the White house screaming, she cut it off, haven't seen a good look on her face for a year and she got booed at NASCAR. What is she doing there she has as much in common with those folks as a skunk does with a dog. Oh yes there is something insane about Washington,the people who work there (work for lack of a better word perhaps steal).

    November 21, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. saywhat

    @ Terry Brookman

    The doddering self serving Old Guard dominating the Hill sitting on their pompous behinds has been the undoing of USA. Subservient to foreign lobbies & special interest these mostly ignorant, no good politicos have been there for too long. The sadder part is that we sent them there. Even sadder is the scenario now unfolding on the GOP stage, the pathetic array of our future leaders & the pearls of wisdom falling from their lips.
    Term limits, getting rid of foreign lobbies, finding & electing people with vision, force of intellect and a perception of a changing world & ground realities, curtailing the influence of special interests are some aspects that come to mind that would make a difference.
    Eutopian ? Perhaps but what else?

    November 21, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    thanks @ck@ppn8
    for the encouragement.

    November 21, 2011 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. pmk1953

    Fire'em all. Establish a congressional draft. Everyone over 18 is to register. Upon being drafted, draftee will serve 1 four year term. Same pay and benefits except benefits end at end of term. Draftees finances will be audited every 6 weeks. If any income cannot be directly attributable to salary or interest on savings, said income will be confiscated and draftee will be fired and imprisoned for 6 months. Lobbying shall be prohibited with lobbyists shot on sight.

    November 21, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. larck

    You would believe you could easily make $200 to $1,000 a day trading Gold? Want some proof? and watch our free demonstration coming up....Gold trading academy.

    November 22, 2011 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. W Varney

    Protesters; Should Occupy WallStreers move to “Occupy Washington”.

    November 22, 2011 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jonathan

    I will be voting for Governor Gary Johnson! Pro-Choice, Pro-Gay rights, Anti war GOP candidate who wants to balance the budget and legalize marijuana! Johnson is also a good steward of tax dollars. He came into office with a huge deficit and left 8 yrs later with a billion dollar surplus. His staff once asked him how he wanted his name read on the state welcome signs. He said Don't put my name on those signs, If we change them at all put welcome to New Mexico from the citizens of New Mexico so we dont have to spend money to change them in the future. As Governor he raised the speed limit to 75 on the highway and allowed people to buy beer on Sunday saying "this is a choice the people of New Mexico can make for themselves and don't need the govt telling them on what day they can buy beer." He understand the proper role of govt to protect you from force or fraud but to otherwise leave you alone unless your actions interfere with the rights of another. Check out Two term(one more than Mitt) Governor Gary Johnson! Dont let the media pick your candidate! Johnson's socially liberal and fiscally conservative stances will be attractive to democrat and independent voters in the general election, I think he is the man to beat obummer.. Gary Johnson is who we need in the White House. The People's President!

    November 25, 2011 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Handofdoom

    Our Government Parties are "Not so political" , they are more like a " social gathering " to enjoy themselves " making us Citizens look like Fools ! "

    November 30, 2011 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  10. james

    I believe this is the whole GOP party as a whole.

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m900f_qCapw&w=640&h=360]

    November 30, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
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