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Supercommittee to Admit Failure

November 21, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

There was never any reason to think that giving and inordinate amount of power to a subset of Congress split between the two parties would somehow solve the partisan dispute over whether or not to raise taxes. So it's not surprising to read that with just a few days left before their deadline, discussions have turned to how to announce their failure:

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Supercommittee: Occupied

October 27, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We know that corporations and special interests that can afford $30,000 - $50,000 per month "access lobbyists" are getting their say in front of the supercommittee. According to Politico, lobbyists are receiving special readouts from closed-door supercommittee meetings and then scheduling one-on-ones with supercommittee members so their clients can protect their interests.

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Checking in on the Supercommittee

October 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress created the deficit supercommittee they attached a trigger to it that would automatically enact large cuts in defense spending if they failed to vote out a proposal. The idea was that nobody in Congress wants to make major cuts to defense so the threat would compel the supercommittee to accomplish the kind of deficit-reduction compromise that the full House and Senate were unable to achieve. More than halfway through the supercommittee's tenure, however, the only progress being made involves finding a way out of the trigger.

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Supercommittee Meeting Secretly

September 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The "public access and transparency" rules that the deficit supercommittee adopted when they first convened contain a major loophole. If they want to block the media and the public out of their meetings, all they have to do is vote to do so and they can operate in total secrecy. Not surprisingly, invoking that loophole seems to have become their standard operating procedure.

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On jobs, Congress is probably not going to do anything. On deficits, however, expect Congress to act. It's an unfortunate situation. Without congressional action on jobs, the unemployment rate is expected to stay around 9% -- or even get worse -- until 2014 or so. But on deficits, if Congres doesn't act the problem will basically take care of itself. As the CBO explained recently, under current law, annual deficits are on track to shrink from where they are today (8% of GDP) to about 1% of GDP by 2015. That's because Congress' of the past created policies with expiration dates and controls that were designed to prevent them from being perpetual drains on the budget. For example, the 2003 Bush tax cuts were passed under special rules that make it easier for the majority party to overcome minority opposition for controversial legislation, but, in exchange, require the legislation to expire after 10 years. Other examples include the Alternative Minimum Tax and the formula the government uses to reimburse doctors under Medicare, both of which are "patched" by Congress year after year so that they don't end up raising taxes too much or reducing doctor pay.

The problem, however, is that doing nothing and letting these sunsets and budget controls do their job is that it would mean more of the burden would get shifted to people and interests groups with money and political influence. For that reason, Congress is not likely to keep their hands off.

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GOP Lining Up Against Obama Jobs Plan

August 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The big tax idea being put forth by the Obama Administration, extending the payroll tax holiday for employees that is set to expire in January, is already running into opposition from congressional Republicans.

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A Supercommittee for Jobs

August 11, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We saw during the debt ceiling standoff that the political-party-driven, filibuster-choked Congress is basically incapable of passing deficit reduction legislation. That's why they created the "joint select committee on deficit reduction" (a.k.a. the "Super Congress") and established special rules and a spending-cut trigger that make their proposal more likely to pass. But Congress has been equally ineffective when it comes to addressing another important problem plaguing the economy -- unemployment. Even very mild, traditionally bipartisan job creation plans are being caught up in the gridlock and killed. So, if Congress actually wants to fix unemployment, why not create a "joint select committee on job creation" and give them special powers just like the deficit committee? That's exactly what Rep. John Larson [D, CT] is suggesting.

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How They Voted on the Debt Bill

August 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representatives last night passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending by a vote of 269-161. Most Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while Democrats were split evenly, 95 in favor and 95 against. To find out who your Rep. is and see how they voted, plug your info into our zipcode lookup tool. Then, once you are shown their name, visit the roll call pageand do a page-find for their name to see how they voted.

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The bill was negotiated entirely behind closed doors, and with no solid proposal until now there'e been no chance for meaningful public review. We've been urged by the President to support "compromise," but we've been locked out of seeing what we were actually being asked to get behind. When you look at which deficit-reduction proposals the public actually supports, it makes sense why this was done so secretively. All of the proposals that are supported by a bipartisan majority of Americans -- e.g. raising taxes on the rich, limiting corporate tax deductions -- were taken off the table long before the real negotiations even began. The "compromise" we were asked to lobby our members of Congress on, but not allowed to see, was between a bunch of stuff that's only popular with the Very Serious People in Washington.

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House Passes Debt Ceiling Bill

July 29, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

After failing Thursday night, Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] brought his debt ceiling bill back to the floor Friday afternoon with an amendment appealing to far-right Republicans, and passed it. The final vote was 218-210, with zero Democrats voting in favor and 22 Republicans voting "no." The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to be rejected later this evening. Click through and the read the full post for what happens next with the debt debate. 

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After five hours of twisting arms and trying to persuade conservatives into voting "yes" with offerings of pizza, at 10 p.m. Thursday evening House Speaker John Boehner [R, OH-8] pulled his debt ceiling bill from the House floor. The bill has been sent back to the Rules Committee for tweaks and will most likely be brought to the floor again on Friday for a second vote attempt. In its current form the bill does not have the 216 votes it needs to pass.

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The Boehner Plan

July 26, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As usual, when Congress does something that's actually important, they do it the least transparent way possible. This time around it's the Boehner debt plan, which calls for trillions in cuts to social spending and a "super Congress" for reforming taxes and entitlements in exchange for allowing President Obama to raise the debt ceiling through the end of the year. It's a plan that was negotiated 100% behind closed doors, and it's not being introduced through the regular legislative order, thereby hindering the public's ability to read it and contact their elected officials with feedback.

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If this NYT report is accurate, then congressional Democrats, led by the Obama Administration, are lined up for another epic cave in. The Republicans, on the other hand, are looking poised to score yet another big victory. First, the Bush tax cuts extension, then the 2011 spending bill cuts, and now a debt-ceiling deal that would reduce the deficit entirely through cuts to social spending.

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The "Gang of Six" Plan

July 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

It's still unclear just how viable the "Gang of Six" deficit and debt package is. On a logistical level, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] said yesterday that the lack of actual legislative language and an official budget score from the CBO means there might not be enough time to get it through Congress before the August 2th deadline. On a political level, it's unlikely the House would bite. It looks to be basically similar to the Biden plan that House Republican leaders rejected several weeks ago because of the level of revenue raisers involved. Still, there are reaons to take it seriously. It is bipartisan to some extent, public pressure to strike a deal is increasing as the deadline approaches, and ratings agencies are now threatening to downgrade U.S. debt if Congress goes with the other potential compromise on the table, Reid-McConnell. Those factors make it absolutely worth taking a close look.

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Please Enjoy This Phony Debt Debate

July 7, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Senate Republicans have been hammering Democrats and the Obama Administration for negotiating the debt limit and deficit deal behind closed doors and out of the public view. They have a point. Unless there's something you're bringing to the table that you'd rather hide from the public, why not put a camera in the negotiating room and broadcast the talks?

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