Is the supercommittee making any progress?
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As the supercommitte continues its closed-door meetings, many insiders remain unhopeful, even pessimistic, that the panel will be able to meet its objective – reaching an agreement to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
Formed as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling, all eyes are on the supercommittee as the November 23rd deadline quickly approaches. Unfortunately, the same problems that led to the break down of a grand bargain on deficit reduction during the debt ceiling talks are hamstringing the current discussions. Members of both parties continue to talk past each other, unwilling to budge as millions of Americans sit out of work.
The Associated Press reports:
After weeks of secret meetings, the 12-member deficit-cutting panel established under last summer’s budget and debt deal appears no closer to a breakthrough than when talks began last month.
The reason? A familiar deadlock over taxes and cuts to major programs like Medicare and the Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled.
The two parties have equal strength on the panel, which has until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan to submit for up-or-down House and Senate votes in December. That means bipartisan compromise is a prerequisite for a successful result.
Thus far, say aides to panel members and other lawmakers, neither side has demonstrated the required flexibility in the super-secret talks.
Regardless of the panel’s progress, many in Washington are unhappy with how the supercommittee is handling itself. As other Congressional committees prepare to submit their recommendations to the supercommittee on Friday, lawmakers and insiders on both sides of the aisle are calling for the discussions to be more transparent. We agree. As the group responsible for some of the most important decisions regarding the country’s financial future, the American people have every right to know what is being considered.
The New York Times explains:
[A] powerful Congressional committee seeking ways to reduce the federal budget deficit has managed to produce a rare bipartisan consensus: Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives in and out of Congress say the panel is doing too much of its work in secret.
The panel….has held two public hearings, one on spending and one on taxes, but has not taken testimony from the public.
Members of the committee often skitter away from journalists who wait outside their meetings, held up to seven hours a day.
Some panel members have met with lobbyists for groups trying to protect the benefits, contracts and tax breaks they receive from the government. Advocacy groups like the Sunlight Foundation and the Brennan Center for Justice have urged the panel to disclose such meetings, saying voters have a right to know who is lobbying for special treatment.