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Hullabaloo


Thursday, November 12, 2009

 
It's Baaaack

by digby


Not that it ever went away. The catfood commission is the Zombie that has been clawing at the door since Obama was elected:

Senators from both parties on Tuesday put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn the power to trim entitlement benefits over to an independent commission.

Seven members of the Senate Budget Committee threatened during a Tuesday hearing to withhold their support for critical legislation to raise the debt ceiling if the bill calling for the creation of a bipartisan fiscal reform commission were not attached. Six others had previously made such threats, bringing the total to 13 senators drawing a hard line on the committee legislation.

“You rarely do have the leverage to make a fundamental change,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who said he hasn’t ruled out offering the independent commission legislation as an amendment to the healthcare reform bill.

The panel, which has been championed by Conrad and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H), would be tasked with stemming the unsustainable rise in debt.

Among its chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The Government Accountability Office recently reported the gap is on pace to reach an “unsustainable” $63 trillion in 2083.


You'll recall that during the transition period Obama was all for this commission (it was part of the Grand Bargain) and put it off until after health care reform was passed once people raised a fuss shortly after the inauguration:


McConnell said that when Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, had previously spoken to Republicans, they struck a tone that indicated a willingness to work on Social Security. "That was the place that I hoped, based on what both he and the chief of staff had said earlier, we'd be able to move on a bipartisan basis. He kind of brushed over that issue" in his speech, said McConnell.

He said he has noticed a change in the administration's rhetoric over the last few weeks. "They seem to be kind of back-pedaling some," he said.

The back-pedaling McConnell sees comes after several weeks of intense lobbying from liberals concerned that Obama might be opening a door to weakening Social Security. And if the GOP isn't happy, it means the lobbying campaign has had an impact.
But they never took it off the table. In fact, it has come up over and over again in the past year. This new gambit is very, very bad, however:

“You rarely do have the leverage to make a fundamental change,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who said he hasn’t ruled out offering the independent commission legislation as an amendment to the healthcare reform bill.

The panel, which has been championed by Conrad and ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H), would be tasked with stemming the unsustainable rise in debt.

Among its chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The Government Accountability Office recently reported the gap is on pace to reach an “unsustainable” $63 trillion in 2083.

The panel would also have the power to craft legislation that would change the tax code and set limits on government spending.

The legislation would then be subject to an up-or-down vote; it could not be amended.

Taking health care hostage is just one possibility, however, if they don't get assurances on this:

Raising the debt ceiling has become one of a handful of “must-pass” pieces of legislation Congress regularly considers without the usual partisan posturing, and often without much debate.

But before Tuesday’s hearing was over, Sens. Conrad, Gregg, Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) publicly vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling if a budget reform commission bill doesn’t come along with it.

“There are rare moments in this institution when you can implement fundamental change,” Bayh said during Tuesday’s hearing. “This is one of them.”

Pelosi says no way, but there are some people inside and outside the House who may have something to say about that. Steny Hoyer indicated, as he did last winter, that he's very interested. And he's not the only one. This was from last February:

The president met with 44 fiscally conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats this week and gave a nod to legislation that would set up commissions to deal with long-term deficit strains. The commissions would then present plans to Congress for an up-or-down vote.

"We feel like we've found a partner in the White House," said Rep. Charlie Melancon (D., La.), a Blue Dog co-chairman
I don't know where the White House stands on this today. Somebody should ask them right away. After all this crisis is imminent:

Among its chief responsibilities would be closing the gap between tax revenue coming in and the larger cost of paying for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. The Government Accountability Office recently reported the gap is on pace to reach an “unsustainable” $63 trillion in 2083.
Most importantly, talk of cutting social security right now would be hugely popular, so all the incumbent Democrats should be intensely interested in getting that issue on the agenda in an election year. Lord knows, there aren't enough current problems to keep them busy.

Seriously, this is Shock Doctrine lunacy of the most obvious kind. Conrad and Bayh are out there saying it right up front. The government has poured trillions into the economy to save the banks and run useless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the old people and the poor are going to have to pay the price. That's the way it works.


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