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The New Super Congress & Ongoing US Debt

August 1, 2011

E.J. Manning

moneyFor decades the nation’s lawmakers have tussled with raising a legally established “debt ceiling.” Now facing another round of short term debt ceiling increases, lawmakers have enabled another government entity to make the hard financial decisions, a new ‘Super Congress.’ This Super Congress will be composed of a committee of 12 lawmakers evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, as well as the House and the Senate. How this abides with the Constitution is open to debate, even though this kind of debate seems to matter less and less.

This Super Congress will decide the next round of $1.5 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. The rest of Congress has little to say about their decision, as they cannot amend or filibuster the recommendations of the Super Congress.

If the Super Congress fails to do their job to enforce required savings, automatic cuts will come to bear at a minimum of $1.2 trillion. Those cuts would be split equally between military and domestic programs. Social Security, Medicaid and programs for the poor would be spared, but Medicare providers would take a hit.

White House officials have confirmed that they will not support an extension of unemployment benefits as part of the final agreement. Even so, the president is planning on pushing for an unemployment extension in the months, if not weeks, ahead.

The second round of financial cuts take place until 2013 when ‘Bush-era tax cuts’ expire. Having a fresh round of deficit reduction that is all cuts with no revenues could give the White House the power to end ‘Bush-era tax cuts’ on wealthier Americans.

Though news reports indicate that none of the leaders were truly pleased about the deal, they were relieved that the deal can present a chance to avert a national default. President Obama seemed especially dissatisfied with the idea of the super committee, saying the leaders should have been able to accomplish all the cuts on their own without creating another government committee.

Most Democrats indicate that there should be no strings attached to a debt limit increase that would enable the country meet its obligations. Others insist that if deficit reduction is going to be linked to the debt limit, then closing loopholes and raising taxes on the rich must be part of the deal. House Republicans managed to pull the entire deal further and further to the right, even inserting a requirement into the agreement for a vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

News quotes? “There is nothing in this framework that violates our principles. It’s all spending cuts. The White House bid to raise taxes has been shut down,” Boehner gloated. Pelosi is the only of the four congressional leaders not to pledge support for the plan. “I look forward to reviewing the legislation with my Caucus to see what level of support we can provide.”

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