Deficit Commission Mark II off to a predictable start

The Washington Post reports today that the new presidential commission to address the federal deficit is not off to a promising start.  Not only are members of Congress and panel chief Joe Biden arguing over terms, they’re also arguing over chairs.  No one is quite sure what the point to the panel is, either:

A congressional task force launched by President Obama last week to help cut the federal deficit is off to a rocky start, with some members complaining that the agenda is destined to provide political theater, not a sweeping rewrite of spending and tax policy.

Set to begin discussions May 5, members already hit a dispute this week, disagreeing over how many people should have seats at the table. Some are asking what’s the point of meeting at all.

First, presidents don’t launch Congressional task forces.  Presidents launch executive task forces, which may or may not include members of Congress.  That’s no small distinction, for a couple of reasons.  Presidents only propose budgets; Congress actually writes and passes them, with or without presidential input.  A Congressional panel would have more weight with Congress, but then again, Congress already has official budgeting panels (Appropriations Committees), and the ability to create ad hoc committees for any purpose they deem fit.

Besides, we’ve seen the presidential task force approach before.  In fact, the wastebaskets at the White House had barely been cleared of the previous task force on the same topic when Obama announced another task force for the same purpose.  Given Barack Obama’s treatment of the recommendations of the first task force, it’s hard to see why anyone would be motivated to join another.  Eric Cantor questions why the panel should meet at all, although others suggest that it’s a clumsy attempt at misdirection:

“I’m at a loss to understand what the purpose is,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Thursday in an interview. He said Obama had not set a timeline for any decisions, although lawmakers from both parties are calling for some agreement on deficit reduction before the government reaches a limit in the coming months on how much money it can borrow.

Several members said it was unclear whether the commission, to be chaired by Vice President Biden, will become the source of a bipartisan deal on cutting the deficit or simply serve as a diversion while an agreement is quietly negotiated elsewhere. That’s what happened in December, when public talks on Capitol Hill over extending Bush-era tax cuts were a cover for back-door negotiations, led by Biden, that ultimately yielded a deal.

If Obama wanted a bipartisan plan to address deficits and spending, he had one from his own commission in hand when he crafted his FY2012 budget.  Instead, he discarded it entirely, with his communications staff telling the press that it was nothing more than a conversation starter anyway, and proceeded to propose more massive spending and skyrocketing deficits.  Obama had another opportunity this month to endorse his commission’s plan in his speech on the deficit last week, and instead chose to offer ambiguities and demagogic attacks on Paul Ryan and his plan — which Ryan produced only after Obama tubed the commission’s recommendations, a commission on which Ryan participated.

Instead of taking action or putting actual details into his generalities, Obama has chosen to hide behind Deficit Commission Mark II.  Don’t expect anyone to get enthusiastic about its prospects after seeing what Obama did with Mark I.

Allahpundit Dec 03, 2021 3:21 PM ET