So Long, Supercommittee

Well, at least they didn’t drag it out over Thanksgiving.

Shortly before 5 p.m. on November 21, 2011, Supercommittee Co-Chairs Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) released a joint statement telling the world what it already knew: it was all over. While many had hoped for the sort last-minute compromise we have come to expect from this Congress, this time it just wasn’t in the cards. While the blame game is sure to continue for months (likely all 12 months between now and Election 2012), we turn our attention to what could happen next.

Option 1: Sequestration

It was supposed to be a deterrent, a fate so unthinkable it would force the Supercommittee into action. Now, it may become reality. Under the terms of the debt ceiling agreement, across-the-board spending cuts will be automatically triggered that will equal the $1.2 trillion in savings the Supercommittee failed to create. The first automatic cuts are split equally between security and non-security spending and are set to take effect on January 2, 2013. Security funding includes the Department of Dense, the Department of Energy nuclear-weapons related activities and the National Nuclear Security Administration, among other agencies. Security spending would be capped at $546 billion in FY 2013 and at $556 billion in FY 2014. All other non-security funding—including military construction, Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security funding—would be capped at $501 billion in fiscal 2013 and $510 billion in fiscal 2014. Under sequestration, Medicare will face limited cuts, but Social Security, Medicaid, veterans and civil and military pay, funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and overseas contingency operations will be excluded entirely.

Option 2: New Supers Save the Day?

We saw the Supercommittee and even heard whispers of a Super-duper committee for a while, but after a long and unsuccessful history of Domenici-Rivlins, Simpson-Bowleses, and now Murray-Hensarlings, it begs the question – Is anyone really going to be willing to take up this losing battle anytime soon? Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) thinks so. Sen. Durbin suggested this morning that any bipartisan group of 12 senators could produce a “super” deficit reduction plan and bring it to the Senate floor for a vote. “It’s time to move to the committee of the whole. Let’s start moving beyond these special committees and let’s do something pretty basic and maybe radical,” said Durbin.

Option 3: Back to the Beginning

Before the Supercommittee even had a chance to fail yesterday, Republicans launched an assault against sequestration. Both Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney went on the offensive against defense cuts. In a statement released yesterday, “We are now working on a plan to minimize the impact of sequestration on the Department of Defense and to ensure that any cuts do not leave us with a hollow military,” said Sens. McCain and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “The first responsibility of any government is to provide for the common defense; we will pursue all options to make certain that we continue to fulfill that solemn commitment.” Romney echoed their sentiment, calling for the $600 billion in proposed defense cuts to be shifted to other parts of the federal budget. President Obama has vowed to veto any effort to prevent sequestration.

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