Supercommittee Failure

By all news accounts, it appears highly likely that the congressional supercommittee will fail to reach consensus by its November 23rd deadline. So what happens now?

Unless an 11th hour deal is reached that can secure 7 out of 12 votes on the committee, win approval by Congress before December 23rd and be signed into law by January 15, 2012, $1.2 trillion in spending cuts will be imposed.

Few people outside the beltway, however, have focused on the fact that these cuts will not take effect until 2013.  Furthermore, the subsequent sequestration will take place through nine annual installments of $54.7 billion per year in defense cuts and $54.7 billion per year in domestic spending cuts. That’s an eternity in Washington. Throw in the fact that one Congress cannot bind another and it quickly becomes apparent that no one really knows the size, depth and constitution of these sequesters or even whether they will take place at all.

While it’s easy to cast blame on lawmakers, in many respects it’s not quite fair to blame supercommittee members.  They were tasked with the responsibility of resolving a near existential debate now taking place over the size and scope of government in the United States. In our democracy, questions of this magnitude are ultimately left for the American people to decide – and they will have that opportunity starting with next November’s elections.

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