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“Commission members were willing to take on their own sacred cows and fight special interests,” said former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), “but only if they saw others doing the same and if what they were voting for really did solve the country’s problems.”
“This spirit of shared sacrifice gained us broad bipartisan support, spanning from Dick Durbin [D-Ill.] to Tom Coburn [R-Okla.],” they said.
“We could not have garnered that type of support had we not taken on defense, domestic programs, the solvency of Social Security, health care and spending in the tax code all at once,” they added.
With the super committee’s Nov. 23 reporting deadline less than two weeks away, there’s a big question of whether there’s time to consider such complex issues as tax and entitlement reform and get a comprehensive package scored by the Congressional Budget Office.
Ideally, Murray and Hensarling should have had their staffs preparing “go-big” options, as well as small-ball spending and revenue options, ever since the committee was appointed.
But, as Simpson and Bowles told the panel, an alternative is to repeat another historical example — the two-stage 1997 balanced budget agreement — by proposing $1.2 trillion or $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction immediately, along with goals and timetables for $4 trillion.
The models are just waiting to be taken up — the breakthrough spirit of 1986, the legislative technique of 1997.
The question is: Do Murray and Hensarling have the courage and skill to pull off a big deal? A little beer might help.