Congress and others discovered years ago that, because of time limits on debates and simple majority requirements, a similar expedited budget procedure — reconciliation — is a great way to avoid many of the pitfalls of the standard legislative process. In some ways, the process the super committee will be using is even more powerful, a sort of reconciliation on steroids.
But requesting or suggesting that the super committee do even more when just completing its original mission would go down in history as a close-to-unprecedented achievement puts all those demanded add-ons in perspective. Virtually all commissions, task forces and committees charged with reducing the deficit either failed completely or had their recommendations revised so that they seldom had the projected effect.
And that was before U.S. politics became so toxic that bipartisan agreements on even noncontroversial topics were a rarity. If you add today’s all-but-broken policymaking process, the magnitude of just accomplishing the original amount of deficit reductions becomes obvious and a very worthy goal by itself.
That’s why the idea that anyone is asking the super committee to do even more than it was originally charged with doing — with fewer powers and abilities and when its original mission is already close to impossible — is roughly the equivalent of asking Superman to save the world while surrounded by kryptonite.
Getting the required seven of the committee’s 12 members to support any proposal to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion will be tough enough if everything is on the table, especially because it would come on top of the spending cuts adopted when the president signed the debt ceiling increase/deficit reduction plan just more than a month ago.
But then asking the committee to do even more while allowing it to look only at a smaller part of the budget is the equivalent of asking Harry Potter to succeed without his wand while standing next to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and surrounded by Death Eaters.
Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of “The Guide to the Federal Budget.”