You thought members of Congress were just screwing around on their August recess district work session recess, didn't you? It's a common assumption, since lawmakers always seem to futz around when they are ostensibly officially at work on Capitol Hill.
Well, some Representatives and Senators might indeed be keeping their heads down and trying to decompress after the debt ceiling debacle.
But the co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, aka the Super Congress or super committee, swear they and their colleagues have been working on their appointed task since they left D.C. earlier this month.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, the Democratic and Republican, respectively, leaders of the bipartisan debt panel, have issued a joint statement on what they've been up to and what we can expect:
"In our capacity as co-chairmen, we are engaging in serious discussions to determine what set of rules will govern the committee's operation, examining a schedule of potential meetings and exploring how to build a committee staff that will help us achieve success.
Additionally, most of the committee members are reviewing the deficit reduction work that many others have engaged in over the past several years.
We are confident that most Americans will agree that when building an organization from the ground-up with a short time-table for success, it's important to get it right the first time."
I appreciate the pep talk and am keeping my fingers crossed that these six Democrats and six Republicans are up to the job. But I'm not holding my breath.
Nothing personal, Ms. Murray and Mr. Hensarling, but I've been watching Congress for a long, long time, both from afar and on Capitol Hill, and the antics of this current group of 535 lawmakers hasn't really inspired a lot of confidence.
Previous unsuccesful deficit-cutting efforts: If you want to do the same deficit reduction homework as the special committee, here are some posts on key bipartisan debt, deficit and tax reform panels that have convened (and gone nowhere) recently:
- National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (appointed by Obama; chairmen's report, not approved by whole panel)
- Zero Plan proposal on tax reform
- Back in Black budget plan
- Gang of Six deficit details
- President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform (appointed by W; dead on arrival primarily due to suggested elimination of popular tax breaks <<cough, mortgage interest, cough>>)
- Additonal homeowner tax breaks considered while tax reform debated (an example of the political/legislative conflicts that arose during the Bush panel deliberations)
Deficit outlook, consequences: When this new 12-member committee was created as part of the law that increased the country's debt ceiling, several lawmakers called for its work to be done in the open, rather than behind closed doors. Word is that the Super Congress is considering how to make its efforts transparent, and that a public website is a top priority.
Until that's established, you might want to bookmark Murray's and Hensarling's Congressional home pages to monitor the progress in finding between $1.2 trillion and $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving.
If the committee can't agree on a spending, or rather no-spending (and possible tax reform) plan, automatic program cuts that both Democrats and Republicans hate will take effect.
You also might find these posts of interest: