Friday, November 4, 2011

Bipartisan Letter - Significance and Shortcomings

The letter signed by a bipartisan group of 100 House members (60 Democrats, 40 Republicans) is not a game changer, but it is a crack in party orthodoxy in the run up to the Super Committee's deadline for later this month to come up with $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction or trigger across the board, automatic sequesters. The key points of the letter were: 1) the SC should go big -- aim for $4 trillion in deficit reduction and 2) that revenue increases and entitlement benefit cuts have to be on the table as part of the discussion.

This is certainly a positive development, but a very limited one indeed. The 40 Republicans represent less than 1/6 of the caucus. Since this letter was surely circulated widely, this means that over 200 House Republicans would not sign on to even the blandest endorsement of a revenue increase. And we know from this summer, that going big did not solve the political problem that Obama and Boehner tried to surmount. Boehner was taken to the woodshed by his caucus for even discussing a plan with a roughly 4:1 ratio of spending cuts to revenue increases. Obama would have similar difficulties if he tried to sell a change in the age for Medicare eligibility.

The Super Committee faces these same realities. The number of lawmakers on this bipartisan letter will have to grow significantly to change the dynamic.

Posted by: David Schanzer

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