CommunityThe Bullpen

10 Votes Likely Threshold for Catfood Commission Report UPDATE: 11-7

The Catfood Commission will hold its final vote today on basically what Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson put together a couple weeks ago, and they’re going to get 10 votes for it. Andy Stern, who introduced his own plan, became the deciding vote against the report, which needed 14 votes to become official, saying it didn’t invest enough in job creation and economic growth. But Dick Durbin decided to vote for it, which is a symbolic yet important show of how this will play in the coming years.

The simple fact is this: America needs to grow our economy and reduce our $13.8 trillion debt.

This plan is not perfect, and it is certainly not the plan I would have written. But it will help put Americans back to work and it will reduce our federal debt dramatically. If we don’t act now — if we pass this issue on to another Congress, another generation — the tough choices we face now only get tougher.

There are only two honest ways to reduce our debt: cut spending or raise revenues. This plan does both and it takes the spending cuts from the entire budget — defense and non-defense. We put the cost of wars and natural disasters on the budget. We increase the gas tax to create a transportation fund to honestly pay for roads, bridges and mass transit.

Durbin doesn’t mention that the solution is not at all balanced – it relies on 67% spending cuts and 33% revenue increases, and it’s not even a deficit solution. It basically says that health care spending shall grow more slowly, without an actual method to get there. Heck, if that was the way to balance the budget, then this Onion article was prescient. Not to mention the fact that it sets a spending and revenue cap, which aside from being unconstitutional and unworkable would essentially end all possibility for progressive governance in America.

I think Durbin gives away why he’s voting for the bill with this passage: “When we engage in the critical decisions about our nation’s future budgets, I want progressive voices at the table to argue that we must protect the most vulnerable in our society and demand fairness in budget cuts.”

What Durbin is seeing is that the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, Kent Conrad, enthusiastically voted for this bill, and the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, voted against it because it wasn’t draconian enough. So next year’s budget will take a lot of these ideas, particularly on spending cuts, and the range of discussion will be center-right to far right. Durbin must think that by voting for this, he allows himself a seat at the table, the ability to weigh in on these matters that will inevitably be at the top of the nation’s agenda.

But in actuality, it seems that Durbin’s vote just lends seriousness to a very unserious proposal, allowing insiders to say “Well, if Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn can get together and vote for it, there must be some merit there.” It also pushes the report over to a bare majority, which was one of Harry Reid’s thresholds for giving the whole package a vote next year, although the other threshold, legislative language, seems unlikely considering that the panel doesn’t have that language and will disband after today.

Basically, progressives are going to have a fight on their hands. They’re armed with several smarter proposals for how to deal with the long-term budget. But Durbin thinking that he helped the cause by voting for a patently absurd Catfood Commission report is just silly.

UPDATE: John Spratt was a last-minute yes vote for the report, so the final count was 11-7. Bowles and Simpson stressed the “strong, bipartisan support,” moving the goalposts before our eyes.

UPDATE II: I tuned in a bit late, so I didn’t realize that these jokers didn’t even hold an official vote.

Previous post

Remedial Tax Cut 101, Just for CNN (and NPR, and...)

Next post

When There's Nothing On The Horizon, You've Got Nothing Left To Prove

David Dayen

David Dayen