Breaking: Senate says no to bipartisan deficit commission

A little dash of cold water on Barack Obama’s plans to recast himself as a deficit hawk, or a way to allow him to scold Congress tomorrow night?

The Senate has rejected a plan backed by President Barack Obama to create a bipartisan task force to tackle the deficit this year.

The special deficit panel would have attempted to produce a plan combining tax cuts and spending curbs that would have been voted on after the midterm elections. But the plan garnered just 53 votes in the 100-member Senate, not enough because 60 votes were required. Anti-tax Republicans joined with Democrats wary of being railroaded into cutting Social Security and Medicare to reject the idea.

Obama endorsed the idea after being pressed by moderate Democrats. The proposal was an amendment to a $1.9 trillion hike in the government’s ability to borrow to finance its operations.

There were two levels of dishonesty in this plan.  First, the government is spending too much money now.  The only reason to wait until after the election was to protect incumbents from taking action now, when it counts.

I’ve discussed the second level of dishonesty here already, but it’s worth repeating.  We don’t need bipartisan commissions from Congress to resolve budget problems.  The voters of the United States elects 535 people to a bipartisan committee that meets every two years to address that very issue.  In fact, Congress’ first task under the Constitution, Article I Section 8, is to approve a budget for the federal government.  We elect Representatives and Senators to do this with full accountability to their constituents.

The formation of a bipartisan commission is just a dodge to get around accountability, and the timing makes it even more craven.  Instead of hiding behind the skirts of a BRAC-like commission, the 535 people already on Capitol Hill need to do the job we sent them to do, rather than spend their time taking junkets to Copenhagen.

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