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Supercommittee Failure and Stimulus

November 22, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While the failure of the supercommittee may be a good thing for long-term deficit reduction, it's not great for what Congress should really be working on -- supporting the economic recovery in the near term. There was some hope that if the supercommittee reached a deal, it would include an extension of some of the fiscal stimulus measures that are set to expire at the end of December. With no deal, the route to sustaining these measures is more difficult, and that threatens the small gains in employment we've seen in recent months.

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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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Here's an idea for how Congress and the supercommittee can overcome gridlock and reduce deficits: stop paying so much attention to pundits and corporate lobbyisyts, and, instead, start listening to the people they were elected to serve. Unlike the hardened and polarized Washington establishemnt, the public-at-large has broad agreement on several proposals for handling budget deficits.

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Supercommittee Eyes Social Security Cuts

November 1, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The supercommittee bill will have even stronger protections than budget reconciliation bills. It can't be filibustered or amended on the floor, and, most importantly, there are no restrictions on what can be included in it. Five of the six Byrd-Rule restrictions are about ensuring that reconciliation bills are actually relevant to budgetary matters. The sixth, however, is about protecting Social Security. Nothing that recommends changes in Social Security can be done through budget reconciliations. Since the Byrd Rules were enacted by Congress in 1985, any legislation affecting Social Security has been filibusterable -- until now.

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Talking Supercommittee Transparency

October 31, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Matt Yglesias and I debate the importance of supercommittee transparency on this week's episode of NPR's On the Media. Have a listen below:

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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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It's Still a Democracy for the Rich and Connected

October 3, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

Last week I wrote about how the deficit supercommittee has so far held the majority of its meetings in complete secrecy. Well, as it turns out, that's not exactly true. According to Politico, the committee members have choosen a select group of citizens to give special access to their private meetings to. You and I just happen to not be on the list.

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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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The Trigger

August 24, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

As has been the fate of every other bipartisan congressional sub-group that has met recently to talk about cutting deficits, the most likely outcome for the supercommittee is gridlock. The supercommittee is split evenly between the parties, and the members that have been chosen are probably too partisan to achieve a grand bargain on taxes and spending that can win a majority vote. If gridlock occurs, an automatic spending cut trigger that Congress created in the debt ceiling bill will go into effect. Let's take a look at how that would work.

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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 Bipartisan Attack on Democracy

August 18, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

The supercommittee on deficit reduction that Congress created in the debt ceiling bill is an absurdly anti-democratic institution. The vast majority of Americans do not have a representative serving on it, yet it's responsible for making enormous decisions about the allocation of public resources that will profoundly effect every American for decades to come. Furthermore, Congress gave it special powers that no other member or committee in Congress enjoys. Their proposal will be guaranteed a vote in both chambers of Congress, no amendments, points of order, or motions to reconsider will be allowed, and it will not be susceptible to filibusters in the Senate. That's right, the Senate couldn't reform filibuster rules at the beginning of the session because doing so would violate minority rights, but they still managed to change them for the supercommittee. But that's not all. The 12 members that have been chosen to serve on the supercommittee appear to have been picked in order to limit electoral accountability as well.

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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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