Options After the Supercommittee Failure

By:  Bob Adelmann
11/21/2011
       
Options After the Supercommittee Failure

Barring a miracle, the Supercommittee will announce Monday morning its failure at coming up with legislation to reduce the projected combined federal budget deficits over 10 years by $1.2 trillion, or $120 billion per year, starting in January 2013. Without enactment of these cuts, under the Budget Control Act the automatic option, called a sequester, will kick in, with $600 billion of the $1.22 trillion in cuts coming from defense spending. Social Security, Medicaid, and other low-income programs are exempt from the cuts, and cuts to Medicare would be modest.

Of course, there is the slim possiblity that the Supercommittee could come up with the cuts, in which case Congress would be expected to vote the legislation up or down without amendment. There are other possibilities too. The Supercommittee could “split the baby” and come up with a bipartisan deal that cuts less than the $1.2 trillion, leaving Congress to find the balance before the automatic cuts kick in. The Supercommittee could even hand Congress a package that includes tax increases as well as spending cuts.

But as of this writing, these possibilities appear unlikely. What appears more likely to happen is that, following a failure of the Supercommittee to present a bill, Congress will abolish the Supercommittee and its automatic cuts and once again begin exercising its constitutional authority regarding spending.

Barring a miracle, the Supercommittee will announce Monday morning its failure at coming up with legislation to reduce the projected combined federal budget deficits over 10 years by $1.2 trillion, or $120 billion per year, starting in January 2013. Without enactment of these cuts, under the Budget Control Act the automatic option, called a sequester, will kick in, with $600 billion of the $1.22 trillion in cuts coming from defense spending. Social Security, Medicaid, and other low-income programs are exempt from the cuts, and cuts to Medicare would be modest.

Of course, there is the slim possiblity that the Supercommittee could come up with the cuts, in which case Congress would be expected to vote the legislation up or down without amendment. There are other possibilities too. The Supercommittee could “split the baby” and come up with a bipartisan deal that cuts less than the $1.2 trillion, leaving Congress to find the balance before the automatic cuts kick in. The Supercommittee could even hand Congress a package that includes tax increases as well as spending cuts.

But as of this writing, these possibilities appear unlikely. What appears more likely to happen is that, following a failure of the Supercommittee to present a bill, Congress will abolish the Supercommittee and its automatic cuts and once again begin exercising its constitutional authority regarding spending.

In fact, the constitutionality of the Supercommittee is dubious at best. As former New Jersey Superior Court Judge Andrew Napolitano noted on Fox News last summer when the Budget Control Act that created the Supercommittee was being debated:

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