The bipartisan Super Committee tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade is officially a super failure. Now, there's another question looming over the heads of American taxpayers: will Congress learn from its mistakes?
Despite our inability to bridge the committee's significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation's fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this Committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.
Now, Congress has one year to find $1.2 trillion in cuts, or it will face sequestration—perhaps a herculean task for this bunch, but it’s made more difficult by the fact that Congress will have a hard time trying to “build on the Committee’s work.” That’s because the Committee has kept its work secret, despite pleas from good government groups.
If Congress is to salvage anything from the demise of the Super Committee, the Committee needs to make public its work—including all of the letters, information, and recommendations it has received (from experts, lobbyists, other committees, the public, and others), its working papers, transcripts or summaries of meetings, explanations of data and underlying assumptions, details of the impasse between members, and whatever else might be useful to getting the job done.
If that happens, there might be a chance that Congress will take the Super Committee’s torch, and come up with a deficit reduction plan on its own. If it doesn’t, sequestration will trigger across-the-board cuts, with half the additional reductions coming in defense spending.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has called sequestration a “doomsday scenario,” and the GOP is vehemently using the threat of sequestration to attack President Obama for being weak on defense. Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) has already made plans to introduce legislation that would prevent sequestration, because he says he will not “preside over crippling the military.”
For now, it doesn’t look like Congress will be able to dodge this particular bullet. President Obama has already stated that he would veto any attempt to stop sequestration. However, as Obama seeks reelection, the scenario could be poised to become the next political football, as across-the-board cuts won’t actually go into effect until January, 2013.
Sequestration may be a scary, hard-to-pronounce word, but as POGO has pointed out repeatedly, there’s nothing apocalyptic about it. POGO has made many recommendations for effective defense cuts that wouldn’t harm national security. In fact, as we’ve said in the past, this could be “a rare moment when Congressional gridlock actually benefits taxpayers.”
Dana Liebelson is POGO's Beth Daley Impact Fellow.
Image via y fireflythegreat.