Sunday, September 18, 2011

Speaking With A Forked Tongue

Earlier this year there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth as Republicans held the nation hostage over the manufactured crisis concerning the debt ceiling. One part of the negotiations to solve this crisis was the creation of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee, the language creating said committee being included the Budget Control Act of 2011. This act was passed by the House and the Senate, and Speaker Boehner voted for its passage.

The language stating the goals and duties of the committee is straightforward and easy to follow.

GOAL — The goal of the joint committee shall be to reduce the deficit by at least $1,500,000,000,000 over the period of fiscal years 2012 to 2021.

DUTIES — IN GENERAL — IMPROVING THE SHORT-TERM AND LONG-TERM FISCAL IMBALANCE — The joint committee shall provide recommendations and legislative language that will significantly improve the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the Federal Government.

You'll notice there's nothing there that says raising taxes is not a viable option for the committee.

Here's what Speaker Boehner had to say in his address to the Economic Club in Washington, D.C., last Thursday.

“Yes, tax reform should include closing loopholes, not for the purpose of bringing more money to the government but because it’s the right thing to do. Tax increases, however, are not a viable option for the joint committee. Tax increases destroy jobs, and the joint committee is a jobs committee. Its mission is to reduce the deficit that is threatening job creation in our country." (bolding mine)

With the committee being evenly split between the parties and needing a majority to pass their final recommendations, I doubt it will be any more functional than the two chambers the members are drawn from. Maybe less so. They're supposed to vote on a report and proposed legislative language by November 23 and present that to the President, Vice President, Speaker of the House, and majority and minority leaders of both chambers by December 2.

There's another part of this legislation I'd like to note:

A member of the joint committee who gives notice of an intention to file supplemental, minority, or additional views at the time of final joint committee vote on the approval of the report and legislative language under clause (ii) shall be entitled to 3 calendar days in which to file such views in writing with the staff director of the joint committee. Such views shall then be included in the joint committee report and printed in the same volume, or part thereof, and their inclusion shall be noted on the cover of the report.

Each Republican House and Senate member of the Joint Deficit Reduction Committee has signed the so-called Taxpayer Protection Pledge, pledging:

   ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses;
   and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

So don't look for the committee to agree on much. But keep an eye out for the additional views that will no doubt accompany whatever tortured language they manage to come up with.

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