You may have noticed that the only politicians in Washington wanting the Super Committee to “go big” on the deficit are politicians who aren’t on the Super Committee. The Hill finds a member of the aforementioned committee willing to acknowledge that the plan is to go small.

The key lawmaker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it is unrealistic to think the 12 lawmakers on the panel will be able to agree to a budget-cutting deal as large as $3 trillion or $4 trillion, as some have urged it to do.

The supercommittee has come under intense pressure to agree to a “grand bargain” styled deal similar in size to the recommendations of groups like President Obama’s debt commission, which called for $4 trillion in cuts over 10 years […]

But the supercommittee member who spoke on background cast doubt on the ability of the panel to be so ambitious. There does not appear to be any consensus to cut Medicare payments to doctors, the Defense Department or other large programs with strong political support, the lawmaker said.

There’s a new reason why the Super Committee will play small ball (although I shouldn’t endorse the idea that $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction is in any way small). The President wants to pay for the American Jobs Act with another $450 billion in deficit reduction. He outlined some pay-fors in his legislation, but they basically act as a “tax trigger,” and the Super Committee could change those terms.

This has provided Republicans with the talking point they have needed to get them out of their box on the jobs bill. “The president is essentially tasking a committee designed to reduce the deficit to pay for yet another round of stimulus,” said committee co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX). Dave Camp said something similar to Brian Beutler:

The idea there is to make it difficult to pass deficit reduction legislation without pairing it with some near-term pro-growth spending and tax cuts. But that would mean an even larger medium term consolidation plan. And Camp says that’s not looking very likely.

Finding more than $1.5 trillion in savings, he said is “going to be a very challenging thing to do. If in fact we get there then I think you can maybe look and see what above and beyond that you can do. But at this point I don’t see us surpassing that requirement yet.”

That’s an on-the-record quote from a committee member.

So this puts an artificial constraint on the work of the committee. If they find anything beyond $1.5 trillion in agreed-upon solutions, they are open to the charge of not using that money for the American Jobs Act. This ensures that nothing of the sort will be done.

So my money would be on the Super Committee putting together a “plan” that consists of $1 trillion from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and $500 billion in “waste” or something. If there’s any plan at all.

UPDATE: There have been more examples of ideologically opposed lobbying groups teaming up for deficit reduction plans, but while a piece of these here or there might get included, I doubt they will come up in a comprehensive way.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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