Fiscal Commission to Produce Sensible Solutions to Debt/Deficit Dilemma Soon

Rainbows and Unicorns to Appear Shortly After

No, I'm just kidding. In fact, according to a Congressional Quarterly (subscription) article published yesterday, it looks like expected Republican congressional electoral gains this fall may completely gridlock what are already complicated negotiations within the commission over addressing our nation's problematic mid- to long-term fiscal issues.

Yesterday afternoon, shortly after the fiscal commission adjourned their last hearing before the November mid-term elections, co-chair Erskine Bowles urged those members of the commission who hold elected political office – which accounts for 12 of the 18 members – to "set some of those parochial interests aside" when voting for recommendations next month.

Commission members would be wise to heed Bowles' proposition if they hope to come up with any worthwhile proposals. For any recommendation to make it into the final report the commission puts out in December, 14 of the 18 members have to agree to it.

Republican gains in Congress could lessen the chances of that happening:

A Republican takeover of the House or Senate would likely embolden Republican members when the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility reconvenes in December, lawmakers and analysts concluded. The Republicans could conclude that they have increased leverage in shaping the panel’s recommendations.


On the other hand, major gains in November could make Republicans on the commission less willing to cut bipartisan deals, some observers said. GOP leaders might discourage agreement, reasoning that any proposals to emerge from the commission would be considered during the post-election session of the 111th Congress with Democrats holding their current substantial House and Senate majorities.

Add that prognostication to what some panel members are describing as current Republican intransigence on any tax increases to raise revenue, and we'll likely have a final commission report that recommends trimming around the edges of fiscal problems rather than addressing the systemic issues within our federal budget.

Color me cynical, but at this point I'll just be happy if the commission doesn't produce any proposals that recommend cutting Social Security benefits for future generations.

Image by Flickr user johnsolid used under a Creative Commons license.

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