A lot of media outlets have marveled at the ability of the Catfood Commission II to go about their business in private without leaks. That could be because they have achieved virtually nothing in terms of output, so there’s nothing really to leak. All indications are that the Republicans on the panel remain dug in on taxes, and the Democrats remain unwilling to move anything that doesn’t include a fig leaf on taxes. So we’ve reached this absurd point in the process, where the Catfood Commission has in effect dissolved, and the business of reaching agreement has again fell to the Congressional leadership, which did such a bang-up job reaching a resolution during the debt limit debate.

With time running out, House and Senate leaders are inserting themselves more into behind-the-scenes deficit talks, exchanging proposals and trying to help the so-called supercommittee avert the threat of a $1.2 trillion across-the board spending cut if no agreement is reached […]

The level of activity goes well beyond what has been reported to date with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid taking the lead in reaching out to Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in a series of recent meetings. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the two co-chairs of the panel, participated in the closely guarded discussions last week, and Boehner Tuesday hosted a meeting in his office with both House and Senate Republicans on the 12-member panel.

“I’m not going to tell you who exactly I have been meeting with,” Murray told POLITICO. “But I will tell you I have been meeting with anybody who I believe will help us get to a deal at the end of the day.”

I love this perception that the trigger must be avoided at all costs, or the evil across-the-board cut will be initiated. Of course, the cuts don’t begin until January 2013, giving Congress ample time to change them or just flat-out nullify them. Stan Collender took this on yesterday.

The $1.2 trillion sequester would indeed be triggered, but the mandated spending cuts would not begin until Jan. 2, 2013, and that will seriously delay and mitigate the explosion many want us to believe would be inevitable.

It would also set up what will then become a yearlong effort to prevent the across-the-board cuts from ever going into effect or to get credit for trying.

The president will submit a budget next February that, he’ll say during the State of the Union, will prevent the sequester from going into effect if it is adopted by Congress.

Multiple plans, including the budget resolutions, will be proposed in the House and Senate that, we’ll be told by those who support them, will prevent the super committee process from being completed if they’re accepted by the other chamber and agreed to by the president. Continuing resolutions, debt ceilings and God knows what else are likely to be held hostage to stop the reductions.

There’s no doubt this will happen. The budget process offers a good opportunity for hostage-taking, and you can bet that plenty of defense-minded members of Congress – with full support from the Pentagon – will threaten shutdowns or whatever else to protect the military-industrial complex from those cuts.

Virtually everyone in Washington wants to make the tax and spend debate the signature issue of the 2012 elections. So nobody’s wasting a lot of time trying to come up with a solution beforehand.

…the interesting wrinkle in this David Rogers story is that Congress wants to use the budgeting gimmick caused by the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan to pay for a doc fix or AMT patch.

One common denominator is a greater willingness to consider future savings attributed to President Barack Obama’s plans to begin drawing down U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and completing a total withdrawal by year’s end in Iraq.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated potential 10-year savings in excess of $1 trillion relative to its spending baseline. Republicans have been scornful in the past of these numbers, but new side bargains being discussed now would use the savings to pay for adjustments in the alternative minimum tax and Medicare reimbursements for physicians.

David Dayen

David Dayen

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