The 12 members of the congressional supercommittee aren’t isolated and alone, working like monks, as they pursue at least a $1.2 trillion deficit reduction plan. The six Republicans met at least twice last week with House speaker John Boehner and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. The week before, three Democrats and three Republicans had dinner at Hunan Dynasty on Capitol Hill, prompting fears among their absent colleagues that a secret deal was being concocted.
The official deadline for the supercommittee is November 23. To meet it, agreement would have to be reached 10 days earlier to give the Congressional Budget Office time to score the plan and the House and Senate 48 hours before voting on it, with no amendments or filibusters allowed.
There appear to be two possible outlines of a plan taking shape, one good, one terrible. To attract the GOP Six, the good plan would be built around tax reform, with either income or corporate tax rates (or both) reduced or frozen, while corporate welfare was scraped from the tax code—loopholes, breaks, and special writeoffs, possibly including those Obama has denounced for corporate jet owners and oil companies. Would any Democrats go along? Senators Max Baucus and John Kerry, maybe. And if Senate majority leader Harry Reid blessed the deal, Patty Murray, his surrogate on the panel, probably would. This is Deal A.
Deal B is what might happen should Deal A fall by the wayside. More conventional, it would consist of some formula of tax hikes and spending cuts. Democrats want “balance,” a 50-50 split. Conservatives are worried three Republicans on the supercommittee—House members Dave Camp and Fred Upton and Senator Rob Portman—might accept Deal B as a last resort. Not likely, unless Boehner and McConnell anointed the deal.
It is too easy for President Obama to blame a “Do Nothing” Congress. Country be damned, Obama wants to be re-elected and Harry Reid will enable him – as long as he looks like he has a chance of winning.
The Democrats will insist on tax rate increases and there will be an automatic trigger of spending cuts – defense and non-defense.
In the meantime, Obama will hit the campaign trail blaming the Republicans for refusing to tax the rich, playing the class warfare card.