S&L, according to this article you may have jumped the gun.
Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2010
There is no report from the fiscal commission
By Ezra Klein
Here is the most important fact about the proposal released by the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform: It is not the commission's report. And here is the second most important fact to remember: The commission itself does not have any actual power. So what we're looking at is a discussion draft of a proposal to balance the budget authored by two people who don't have a vote in either the House or the Senate. In a town thick with proposals for balancing the budget but thin on votes for actually passing such proposals, it's not clear what the purpose of this one is.
It's worth taking a moment to consider how we got here: The fiscal commission we have is not the fiscal commission we were supposed to have. The fiscal commission we were supposed to have was the brainchild of Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg, the two senior members of the Senate Budget Committee. "The inability of the regular legislative process to meaningfully act on [the deficit] couldn't be clearer," they wrote. Their proposal would have set up a commission dominated by members of Congress and able to fast-track its consensus recommendations through the congressional process -- no delays, no amendments. But that proposal was filibustered in the Senate, mainly by Republicans who worried it would end in tax increases.
So the president stepped in and created a fiscal commission of his own. Like the Conrad-Gregg commission, it had 18 members, though fewer of them were members of Congress. Like the Conrad-Gregg commission, it would need 14 of its 18 participants to agree to report out its recommendations. But unlike the Conrad-Gregg commission, it had no actual power in Congress. If 14 members agreed on the recommendations, all that meant was that ... 14 members agreed on the recommendations. They could still be filibustered, amended -- whatever. The political logic of this seemed rather peculiar: If the fiscal commission itself could not pass Congress, how would the recommendations from an executive-branch fiscal commission pass Congress? The recommendations, after all, are where the hard stuff is.
Increasingly, the concern looks to be moot: The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform will not get agreement from 14 of its members. It might not even get a majority. Today's release, unexpectedly, is a draft proposal from the co-chairs, and that might be as close as the commission comes to a comprehensive product. "This is not a proposal I could support," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, one of the members. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, another participant, was less definitive, but nowhere near supportive. "Some of it I like," he said. "Some of it disturbs me. And some of it I've got to study." The full commission is expected to debate the proposal over the next week.
Reading the report makes clear why the members of Congress are so ambivalent: It cuts Social Security benefits and raises taxes. It slashes discretionary spending without sparing defense. It eliminates the employer-tax exclusion for health care and the mortgage-interest deduction, and does nothing in particular to deal with the resulting chaos in the employer-based health-insurance market or the housing market. A "yea" on this package would not be an easy vote to cast.
Substantively, my impression of the report mirrors Hensarling's: Some of it I like, some of it I don't like, and some of it I need to think more about. But the report doesn't fulfill its basic purpose, which was demonstrating enough consensus among congressional representatives of both parties to convince the public and the political system that Congress is ready to make these choices. The reality is, we don't have a congressional fiscal commission, we don't have a report from the White House's fiscal commission, and we don't have a consensus on fiscal issues between the two parties. The co-chairmen have some interesting policy ideas for how to balance the budget, but as of yet, they've not made any discernible progress on the political deadlock preventing us from balancing the budget. And it's the deadlock, not the policy questions, that they were asked to solve.