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Pomeroy Targets Cat Food Commission with Hearing on Social Security

The LA Times reported today that liberal members of Congress on Capitol Hill are personally unhappy with President Obama. Mostly the story included gripes and personal slights and a general tenor that they have been asked to bend and bend and bend, with their counterparts in the Blue Dog caucus getting every concession for which they ask. But I think this hearing scheduled by Earl Pomeroy on Social Security signals a tangible action meant to derail an Administration priority, namely the cat food commission. Pomeroy, of North Dakota, is no liberal hero, but he chairs the Social Security subcommittee in the House, and his hearing, scheduled for July 15, clearly is meant to determine how to protect and bolster the program, not cut it.

“[This] hearing will provide an opportunity to learn how vital this program continues to be for the well-being of all Americans and why we should consider very carefully any changes being proposed for how they will affect the lives of current and future generations of beneficiaries,” he said in prepared remarks.

The hearing will come on the heels of Europe looking to increase its retirement age to combat its debt problem. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) has also suggested raising the U.S. retirement age from 67 to 70 to ensure the solvency of entitlement programs.

Of course, so have Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn, at times. But House Democrats have tried to pigeonhole Boehner’s remarks, and this hearing is no different. If members at that hearing draw a line in the sand, then passage of the fiscal commission recommendations becomes more difficult.

Actually, the bigger obstacle could be conservative disapproval with moving any big priorities, including the fiscal commission, in the lame duck session.

President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress should swear off any major action during a lame-duck Congress, a Republican senator said Friday.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said if Democrats want to add stability to the economy, they should pledge not to move legislation that might not otherwise pass during the congressional session following Election Day.

“I think one of the great things the administration can do to cause people to settle down is to say, absolutely, that they would oppose any great activity in a lame-duck session,” Corker said during an appearance on CNBC.

White House and Congressional leaders have floated at least a half-dozen priorities in the lame duck session, including cap and trade, immigration, free trade agreements, pieces of the Employee Free Choice Act, appropriations bills and the fiscal commission. On the latter, conservatives fear a VAT tax as a balancer to any spending cuts coming out of the commission. Because of the typical dynamic in Congress, they probably hold as much of a key to passage of the recommendations as the Democrats.

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David Dayen

David Dayen