The Super Committee Precedent Why End The Filibuster Just For Deficit Reduction

Bill Scher

A precedent was set in the debt limit deal. If there is a crisis that so imminently threatens America’s foundation that the well-being of our children and grandchildren is at risk, then we must suspend the effective supermajority requirement for passing legislation in the Senate to ensure we can take action.

That is what the so-called Super Committee does.

If it can secure a simple majority within the committee by Nov. 23 for $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction, then both houses of Congress must vote on by Dec. 23, under simple majority rules. No amendments. No filibusters.

Well alrighty then.

I guess now when we face deep crises where congressional gridlock has long thwarted action, we now have the option of a Super Committee to make sure Congress can act.

That’s good, since there are a few other crises out there.

There’s this job crisis for one.

6.2 million have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. And people out of work over a year are one-third less likely to get a job than those out of work for five weeks. As Paul Krugman warns, many of these folks may end up permanently unemployed, dragging down the entire economy a generation.

So Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) sensibly is proposing a Super Committee on jobs, with the same rules as the Super Committee on the deficit.

I’m sure that all those congresspeople who always fret about our children and grandchildren when it comes to the debt will rush to co-sponsor it.

There’s also this crisis with our climate.

Planet warming. Extreme weather. More drought. More floods. All this has already started. The crisis has begun, and left untouched, the destruction of resources will mean a worse economy and more war for multiple generations.

Our children and grandchildren may even care about that than the precise level of the GDP-to-debt ratio.

Yet the supermajority bar in the Senate has made it impossible for America to cap our carbon emissions and end the crisis.

Good thing we can now establish Super Committees! Now we can get right on that.

It’s one thing to have an effective supermajority requirement for things like lifetime judicial appointments. Giving one individual that much power warrants a higher bar to avoid the politicization of the judicial branch.

And it’s one thing to point out that the chronic obstruction by the Republican Party has abused our long-standing system of checks and balances, making it much harder for our democratic systems of government to respond to the public will. That warrants rule reform to lower the bar necessary to act.

But it’s a very odd thing indeed to single out our long-term fiscal problems –which many would argue do not amount to an imminent crisis — for special legislative treatment, when there are plenty of other crises — jobs, climate, poverty, immigration, housing, infrastructure, just to name a few – festering while gridlock reigns.

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