Why so serious? Super committee R’s and D’s can’t decide who’s joking

C.J. Ciaramella Contributor
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With the clock ticking, Republicans and Democrats have both unveiled plans to reduce the federal deficit and avoid automatic spending cuts set to go into effect on Nov. 23. But in typical Washington fashion, neither side can believe the other is serious.

Republicans and Democrats rolled out their respective proposals Wednesday for the 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, known as the “super committee,” which is tasked with reducing 10-year federal deficits by a total of $1.2 trillion.

If the committee fails to reach an agreement by Nov. 23, automatic spending cuts from defense and social programs will be triggered as part of a deal brokered in the debt ceiling negotiations earlier this year.

But with less than one month before the triggers kick in, both parties appear to be heading toward yet another game of chicken.

The Democrats’ plan includes between $200 billion and $300 billion in new economic stimulus spending — paid for with lower interest payments from reducing deficits — and around $400 billion in Medicare savings. Half of those savings will come from benefit cuts, the other half from cuts to healthcare providers.

However, it will also reportedly include more than $1 trillion in new tax revenues. Many in the GOP, including several members of the super committee, are staunchly opposed to any net increase in taxes.

“This is the same number that was in the president’s budget, the same number that I don’t know if they found any Democrats in the House and Senate to vote for,” House Speaker John Boehner said Thursday in a press conference. “And so I don’t think it’s a reasonable number.”

A top GOP aide said yesterday of the Democrats’ plan: “A proposal that includes $1.5 trillion in tax hikes in the midst of a jobs crisis is not serious.”

Speaking of serious, Democrats can’t believe what Republicans put up as a counter-offer.

The exact details of both plans are scant because both were negotiated behind closed doors and even out of the eye of many in Congress, but the Republicans’ plan appears to include many of the same cuts as the Democrats’ plan.

It’s the revenue side, of course, that makes some Democrats balk. The GOP plan reportedly would generate $440 billion through increased government fees, such as higher Medicare co-pays. It would also attribute about $200 billion to future economic growth from tax reforms.

“Their offer is a joke,” a Democratic aide told Politico. “Democrats came to the table with an offer that had serious skin in the game for both parties. Rather than offering real solutions, Republicans are just doing more of the same posturing they do every time they walk away from efforts to constructively tackle this crisis.”

The only thing everyone seems to agree on is that it’s time to get serious.

“I’ve had lots of conversations with lots of people trying to ensure that we do in fact get to an outcome,” Boehner said today. “I’m not surprised that we’re having some difficulty, because this isn’t easy. It’s going to be very hard. But I do think it’s time for everybody to get serious about it.”


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