Tuesday, August 2, 2011

More on Special Joint Committees

Sarah Binder has a highly useful post over at the Monkey Cage explaining the history of commissions, special committees, and other similar animals. Bottom line: most fail, but this appears to be built to succeed.

As long as I'm on it, I'll point to a summary from yesterday from Ezra Klein, who lists three possible outcomes: "1) there’s no deal and the trigger goes off, 2) the Democrats agree to $1.5 trillion in further spending cuts alongside zero dollars in tax increases, or 3) Republicans agree to revenues." That's right, but I'll that that there is a fourth possibility: they change the rules. That wouldn't be easy; it would require, as far as I can see, actually passing a law to turn the trigger off, which means that the House, the Senate (and most likely a supermajority there), and Barack Obama all agree. That's not especially likely -- but it's certainly possible. As Jonathan Chait argues, there will be plenty of lobbying against the trigger, while reaching some other deal will be just as hard as it's ever been. Something, one way or another, will have to give, and it's worth mentioning that one possibility is backing away from the whole deal.

At any rate, Binder's post about special committees and commissions is excellent and definitely recommended.


  1. I was to make sure I have the procedure correct here:

    The debt deal changes the budget authority Congress has for the next ten years. It doesn't stipulate which programs get cut, but instead caps the total pot of money Congress has to work with, to be allocated to the appropriations committees.

    Now, isn't that the same thing a budget resolution does? Couldn't each house of Congress pass a budget resolution for that fiscal year that includes new numbers for budget authority? And budget resolutions are not subject to a Presidential veto, or even a vote in the other chamber, and are not subject to a filibuster. The only issue I can see is if someone raises a Point of Order, but that can be waived with a majority in the House and a 3/5ths majority in the Senate.

    So, honestly, if a future Congress wants to spend more, even if the President disagrees, how is this deal at all binding?

  2. The best way forward is to have a successful election campaign, to the effect that everyone who's sick of biannual, partisan, food fight hostage crises needs to quit voting Republican.

    There are plenty of thoughtful, sensible conservatives in this country, and they are all Democrats.


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