Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not Supercommittee. Appropriations.

If my twitter feed is any indication, everyone is still focused on the Joint Select (Super) Committee, which is still unlikely to do anything, which will in turn trigger something that won't happen for another year, except by then it won't happen.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell the real budget news continues to be the likely shutdown showdown over FY 2012 appropriations, coming later this month. Brian Beutler did have some good reporting today on some of the issues involved -- it's mostly about policy riders that the House is attaching to appropriations bills.

I'm entirely baffled by the whole thing; it just seems to me that the press has this entirely backwards. Is it that everyone has cried wolf over a government shutdown too many times this year? Is it the ever-present liberal panic that if they look away for a minute that Democratic politicians will immediately shut down Social Security and Medicare, as many liberals are certain that they're eager to do? I have no idea. As far as I can tell, the JSC just isn't a very big deal, while the other track -- FY2012 appropriations -- is a real and serious battle. That's what I've been saying, and I think Stan Collender has been mostly saying the same thing, but everyone else seems to be fixated on the wrong thing. Anyone have a good explanation?


  1. As far as I can tell, the JSC just isn't a very big deal, while the other track -- FY2012 appropriations -- is a real and serious battle.


    You've constantly stated that it's no big deal that the US Senate hasn't produced a budget in over 2 years, and have ignored regular order and reverted to last minute, smoky backroom deals, steeped in brinksmanship.

    But now suddenly, in direct contradiction to your constantly stated position, the appropriations process is a "real and serious battle"?


    The correct answer is that the honorables will ignore the vagaries of what you think is important (today), and will continue to do what it is you've been welcoming (yesterday, at least), which is to ignore regular order, transparency and the appropriations process. They'll revert to the smoky backroom deal being cooked up by the "super committee", and then backfill those numbers into the long dormant appropriations process.

    Go smoky backroom, and you're sorta committed to it all the way through. You have been so committed, so why the sudden change now?

  2. I'd speculate a couple of things, coming primarily from the perspective that "news is entertainment," at least for sellers of news content:

    1. "Shutdown" fatigue: There's been lots of talk about prospective government shutdowns these last two years, but no actual shutdowns. As an editor, do I want to cry wolf one more time? Do I want to bring my readers/viewers/visitors more stories that look like they could have been written a year ago, or two years ago?

    2. Novelty: The JSC (or the more-dramatic "SuperCongress!") is high-profile, sexy, and powerful. What a great focus for breathless reporting - much more fun than writing about Yet Another Shutdown That Won't Happen Anyway (even if it actually might).

  3. Nothing but my opinion, but I'd say the SuperCommittee represents the bipartisan ideal of how to work out the Grand Bargain on deficit reduction. This hits both of the village's favorite biases, so they wait for 6 "serious" Democrats and 6 "serious" Republicans to produce the pony the media has been waiting 3 years for.

    The appropriations bill is already discounted (to use a stock term) in expectation of the usual "both sides do it" pie fight. The one where Obama and the Democrats offer the GOP about 75% of what they want, only to get turned down flat because Congressional Republicans are all like Daffy Duck now. (Mine! Mine! Mine!)

    And when there is a budget impasse, the village will blame both sides, and David Brooks will write a column of how Obama is a bigger flip-flopper than Romney, because Obama went back on his "never hurt conservative fee fees" promise.

  4. Do you hear the president talking about the budget? Or Reid and Pelosi?

    Or McConnell, Boehner, and Cantor?

    Why would the MSM "waste" their time actually doing serious reporting when no one's talking about a clearly very serious problem.

  5. What JS said. 'Bipartisanship ... deficits' hits the erogenous zones of the Beltway media, while an appropriations kerfuffle is just an appropriations kerfuffle.

  6. I have been under the impression (by the media and academics) that the sheer power of the super committee is unprecedented. Is this not the case? Regardless of whether or not a deal is struck, the committee deserves much attention if this power argument holds water.

  7. First of all, I missed someone -- Norm Ornstein has also been writing about the potential showdown on appropriations. So Ornstein, Collender, me, vs. everyone else.


    No, it's not unprecedented -- although definitely some reporters and some politicians are treating it that way. Check out what Sarah Binder said early on. I'm not convinced it's very powerful at all.

    And I suppose...

    Anon 4:07,

    I'm pretty sure you don't actually know what a budget resolution is. That's okay, but you might want to learn more about the budget process before commenting on it. There is obviously nothing at all inconsistent in believing that (1) whether or not a budget resolution is adopted isn't an especially big deal, and (2) there's a fair chance of a government shutdown over FY 2012 approps.

    Anyway, I'd have to double-check, but I'm pretty sure that there's no way to fold FY 2012 approps into the supercommittee bill. Which is a good thing, since there's not likely to be a supercommittee bill, as far as I can see.

    Oh -- and the debt limit bill that created the JSC basically is the functional equivalent of a budget resolution, more or less. So while it is true that they didn't pass a budget resolution this year, they are basically operating under the functional equivalent of one.

  8. Ahhhhhh, so you're caught in contradiction, and the other guy must not "understand"? That it?

    Too much smoke blowing, Mr. Bernstein. The US Senate hasn't produced a budget in over 2 years. You've discounted its necessity, but suddenly you clamor for this as a "real and serious" matter.

    The appropriations process follows regular order, and it is transparent. That is, if the process is as it's been throughout my lifetime. But for the past 2 years, that process hasn't been followed, in violation of law and historical precedent. You've long discounted that, but now you're suddenly identifying that as a problem.

    Check and mate.

    You're right this time, of course. Good government calls for regular order and a transparent process, which we haven't had these past 2 years. Welcome (belatedly) aboard.

    And by the way, the Congress can fold anything they want into anything they want. That's how it works. If you have a majority, you vote, and that's it. That's how the US Senate has gotten away without following regular order re appropriations for the last 2 years. And when that "super committee" finishes the top line budget numbers, they will be backloaded into the 2012 budget, sans regular order re appropriations.

    Why? Because they can do that. It's not right, but the US Senate can stall any action they want, even if it breaks the law. What's gonna happen? Somebody gonna call a cop? And they have folks like you on the job, long celebrating their lack of transparency and eschewing regular order. So that's how it'll go down.

    Want that to change? Demand those committees meet and produce budgets, rather than celebrating their failure to do same. Remember, at root, the Left is getting electorally slaughtered these days because of failed governance. If you don't tax and spend responsibly, that will have its price, electorally. And it is.

  9. Anon,

    Once again: they *did* pass a budget this year. Unless you would like to explain the difference between the debt limit deal and a regular budget resolution.

  10. Exactly, they engaged in smoky backroom dealmaking, steeped in brinksmanship, right down to the wire, then backfed those numbers into the budgeting process that had been long eschewed. Exactly what the "super committee" will be doing shortly, in fact.

    The only outlier is that you shortly ago thought this process perfectly acceptable, but suddenly you think it's a "serious" problem. What happened?


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