The Conversation

Supercommittee II, and Other Bad GOP Proposals

House Republican leaders will offer a new proposal to tackle both the government shutdown and the debt ceiling: a new supercommittee, similar to the one created after the last debt ceiling debate in an effort to tackle long-term federal deficits. (That committee failed, resulting in the sequester.) According to Roll Call's Emma Dumain and Matt Fuller, would bring 10 Senate and 10 House members together to negotiate.

The idea seems to be a) to force Democrats to abandon their "no negotiation" stance; b) to draw attention to the fact that Democrats won't negotiate, in the event that they reject the proposal (which they seem likely to do). It is unclear what real gains Republicans hope to gain from Supercommittee II (Super-supercommittee? Son of Supercommittee?), other than the public relations value of having offered formally to negotiate.

Likewise with an idea floated by Sen. Pete Sessions, a conservative stalwart in the Senate, who suggested that it might not be terrible, for the sake of building trust, to put a tax hike on the table in budget talks. It is hard to believe that Sessions would ever support such a tax hike. The idea seems to be to echo the House's message, and show an openness to negotiation, in the belief that Democrats' intransigence is hurting them.

None of these Republican proposals seems any good, substantively. There is more than a whiff here of poll-testing, consultant recommendations and so forth, all aimed at winning the message battle over negotiations but neglecting what those negotiations are meant to achieve. There is a real danger that the strategic gains of the past week could be lost--especially if Democrats call the Republicans' bluff on any of these proposals.

The only way these ideas make sense for the GOP is if Democrats reject them. Again, they seem to be doing so--but they may not do so for long. Democrats are beginning to split, following Monday's suggestion by White House advisor Gene Sperling that the president might not reject a straightforward, short-term debt ceiling increase. The implication is that the president may be willing to negotiate. That has the left worried.

Republicans have an opportunity to win a one-year delay in Obamacare's individual mandate as the price for a short-term debt-ceiling increase--the administration's suggestion, not theirs. They could sweeten the deal by offering a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the government--attaching the Obamacare delay to the short-term debt ceiling, rather than to the continuing resolution, to allow the president to save face.

That would be better than Supercommittee: The Sequel--not just because it would offer a substantive win up front, but also because Speaker John Boehner promised earlier in the year that he would follow "regular order" in his dealings with the Senate and the president. Supercommittee the Second seems to contradict the spirit, if not the letter, of that promise. One hopes the GOP is keeping a few better ideas in reserve.


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