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Senate Dems on Catfood Commission Like a Rorschach Test

I think there’s reason to be happy about the three selections by Harry Reid for the Catfood Commission II, and there’s just as much reason to be skeptical. All three are on the record for a balanced deficit solution – so is the public, incidentally, because no other option has really been put before them – but of course the other side won’t support a balanced deficit solution, so that doesn’t much matter. What matters is what they consider “balanced” – a few extra shekels from ending some tax break in exchange for disastrous cuts to Medicare or Medicaid, for example. Certainly Patty Murray and John Kerry have defense industry ties, and as the head of the Finance Committee Baucus is no stranger to health care or tax lobbyists. But I don’t think you could find a Senator in the Democratic caucus without those ties. Then there’s this allusion to a stirring speech by John Kerry, which should immediately set off a BS detector:

A Democratic source told The Huffington Post that Kerry “made it into the discussion” of who should serve on the committee by delivering “some powerful speeches” to the rest of the caucus. The speeches, the source added, were in defense of Democratic Party priorities, focusing on the need to protect entitlement programs and Kerry’s desire to strongly push back against (what the source referred to as) “the right-wing agenda.”

That gives me a great idea to stall out the committee: have John Kerry give the opening speech.

Meanwhile, if Baucus is not liked for being parochial and sure to vote against any program that emerged, and given his performance during the health care debate, when he went into a room with a small bipartisan group and wasted four months not finding a solution, I’d say it was a great choice!

And Republicans are flipping out about Murray because she’s the head of the DSCC, the campaign arm of the Senate Democrats. My goodness, there’s something political in this politics!

So it’s really a Rorschach test. If you think that the committee is designed to fail, these are good members to that end. If you think that the entire exercise is a ploy to cut entitlements and lessen small-d democratic accountability, you can see that at work here as well. In that sense, ultimately the specific members of the committee don’t really matter.

Maybe it’ll be transparent, anyway. At least we’ll be told how we’re going to be screwed.

UPDATE: Let me just pull from the joint statement made by Murray, Kerry and Baucus:

“This is an important moment for our country. Millions of Americans are struggling in this tough economy, working overtime to pay the bills, find a job, and find a way forward for their families, and they want this Committee to force the federal government to make similar sacrifices without the red hot partisanship and brinksmanship of the last months.

That’s actually not what Americans want. They want help in their struggle by making the economy less tough. There’s a lot of other boilerplate about balance and common ground and working together and bipartisanship in there.

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Senate Dems on Catfood Commission Like a Rorschach Test

David Dayen

David Dayen