Will the so-called super committee end up pitting defense hawks against anti-taxers?
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“No doubt, we’ll start to see more and more opposition from conservative defense hawks to slashing the military budget, while the Norquist crowd will continue to push Republicans to accept more defense cuts to avoid any increase in taxes,” concludes Philip Klein in the Washington Examiner. “Some of our members could accept defense cuts,” says a Republican staffer. “Others would fight them.”
The last attempt at a grand bargain — the Simpson-Bowles committee on budget reform — failed both sides. Conservatives balked at the additional revenues commission members wanted to raise while liberals rejected the spending cuts. Super committee boosters hope the new panel will be as successful as the commission that began recommending military base closures in 1988.
Others point to the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act of 1986, which had mixed results. Gramm-Rudman did lead to some spending caps and had a salutary effect on the budget deficit. But the law was under attack almost immediately and its sequesters never ended up happening once major spending programs were threatened. Some think the triggers could face the same fate. “It’s possible nothing could happen,” says a Republican congressional aide.
“I’m not optimistic,” says Sen. Mike Lee, who notes that he voted against the agreement setting up the super committee in the first place. The Utah Republican quickly rattles off all the reasons to doubt the bipartisan panel. But even Lee is unwilling to discount it entirely. “I’m always going to be in favor of anything that could facilitate spending cuts,” he says. We’ll see if that’s what we get.