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Conrad-Gregg Commission Defeated

The Senate today rejected an amendment from Sens. Kent Conrad and Judd Gregg to create a commission that would recommend steps to lower the budget deficit. Despite support from President Obama, the commission garnered 53 votes, seven less than the 60 needed for passage.

The special deficit panel would have attempted to produce a plan combining tax cuts and spending curbs that would have been voted on after the midterm elections. But the plan garnered just 53 votes in the 100-member Senate, not enough because 60 votes were required. Anti-tax Republicans joined with Democrats wary of being railroaded into cutting Social Security and Medicare to reject the idea.

Obama endorsed the idea after being pressed by moderate Democrats. The proposal was an amendment to a $1.9 trillion hike in the government’s ability to borrow to finance its operations.

Here’s the roll call. This was a truly bipartisan vote – 22 Democrats and 24 Republicans voted no.

One assumes that the next step is a commission enacted through executive order, but that would not have the fast-track ability to force the recommendations onto Congress without amendments and with an up or down vote.

Cat food futures plummeted on the news. Andrea Mitchell’s guests look sullen, too.

…it’s pretty hilarious to hear these establishment types talk about how “everything has to be on the table” in deficit reduction, without putting everything on the table. A case in point from establishment weathervane Chuck Todd:

But just how hard is it to really cut into the nation’s debt? Look no further than today’s Senate vote to establish an independent debt commission, which would come up with bipartisan recommendations to reduce the debt. Today’s vote isn’t expected to get 60 votes because conservatives are worried that the commission’s recommendations would include tax increases, while liberals are concerned that there would be cuts in entitlement spending. Well, yeah — the only way to really reduce the debt (outside of another economic boom like we saw in the late ‘90s) is to both raise taxes and cut entitlement spending. That Democrats and Republicans can’t come together on something like this only adds to the perception that Washington isn’t working.

I didn’t see the words “military” or “defense” in that holier-than-thou paragraph, despite the fact that spending on that front is currently higher than at any time in our history, higher than Reagan’s Cold War military buildup. That’s bigger by a factor of two than all the disrectionary spending talked about in this budget “freeze.”

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David Dayen

David Dayen