CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
Oct. 14, 2011 – 10:16 p.m.
Deficit Panel Stirs Turf Concerns
By Sam Goldfarb and Joseph J. Schatz, CQ Staff
From the moment it was created, the joint deficit reduction committee was guaranteed to produce angst in almost every lawmaker who did not land a seat on the exclusive 12-member panel.
Charged with finding a way, by Thanksgiving, to trim the deficit by a minimum of $1.2 trillion over the next decade, the so-called supercommittee has the authority to write practically any kind of legislation, which threatens the role of long-established standing committees, each with its own traditions and preferences.
Whatever the joint committee proposes will be subject to an up-or-down vote on the House and Senate floors with no possibility of amendment, further limiting the ability of lawmakers not on the panel to affect its work.
About midway in its scheduled life, the joint committee is still stirring hopes and generating anger among the rank and file of both parties. Predictably, congressional views from outside the joint committee often break along party lines. But in some cases, Democrats and Republicans appear united in a common desire to defend their own committees’ turf.
Most notable is an intense bipartisan concern among members of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means panels that the joint committee will propose major changes to the tax code without their input. This worry has had a big influence on the joint committee, which is simultaneously interested in overhauling the tax system and cautious about taking such an action on its own.
Importantly, both Finance Chairman
In part because of jurisdictional concerns and in part because the joint committee has relatively little time before its Nov. 23 deadline to vote on a deficit reduction package, action on a tax overhaul is likely to be constrained. One thought is that whatever the joint committee proposes on that subject is likely to take the form of a two-step process in which the panel issues instructions to the traditional tax-writing committees to produce legislation by a specified deadline.
The instructions, should they come, might be specific or vague. Again, Ways and Means and Finance members’ concerns might shape the joint committee’s work in that regard.
“I think I would look at those parameters to see if it minimizes and reduces our authority,” Ways and Means member
Unease is also apparent among lawmakers on other standing committees. Members of the House and Senate Armed Services panels, for instance, have been particularly aggressive in trying to ensure that the joint committee takes their views into account and in attempting to protect the Pentagon from big spending cuts.
“Any major budget review, whether conducted by the administration or Congress, must be accompanied by an honest and comprehensive review of current and future requirements and must include strategic priorities established by the Senate and House committees of jurisdiction,” said Sen.
Deficit Panel Stirs Turf Concerns
Since the joint committee was created in August, members of the Appropriations panels have been concerned that it will propose new spending caps that force the rewriting of completed bills.
In that sense, the secrecy of the joint committee’s deliberations is something of an obstacle for standing committees. Yet Kingston acknowledged the need for some secrecy. And he commended House and Senate Agriculture committee leaders for trying to broker their own spending reduction deal in conjunction with a new farm bill. “They’ve got to play defense and they’ve got to play offense,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that much of an issue,” Simpson said.