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Bipartisan Pols Tell Super Committee to “Go Big” on Deficit Reduction

Over 100 members of the House and Senate, from both parties, tried to line themselves up on the sorrowful side of the failure of Super Committee today, holding a press conference urging a big deficit deal. Never mind the fact that a big deficit deal wouldn’t pass Congress. Never mind the fact that most of the people at that press conference wouldn’t vote for the end-product. They want to position themselves as in support of a big deal so they can be held blameless when one doesn’t transpire. It’s the peanut gallery mentality, from a bunch of people who are happy not to be on the Super Committee so they can actually just dictate to it rather than having to be responsible for it.

The tell here is that they have pretty much no conception of what a deal would look like:

Members of what has been dubbed the “go-big coalition” said about 150 lawmakers in both houses support a compromise deficit-reduction plan that would include increases in revenue and cuts to entitlement programs. About 40 members of the group attended the news conference.

“We want [the supercommittee] to know that there is a large and significant number of us in both chambers who want such a deal and are ready to give it a fair shot,” said Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip. “None of us want to risk the immediate and long-term effects of sequestration . . . if the committee fails.” He referred to the procedure, codified in this summer’s deal to raise the debt ceiling, that would trigger automatic across-the-board cuts of $1.2 trillion over 10 years. Under the sequestration requirement, annual cuts of $109.3 billion would start in fiscal 2013, with half the amount to come from the Defense Department — reductions that the Pentagon has warned could affect national security.

The coalition wants the supercommittee to know that “the right thing to do is to go big,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.). He said that could mean deficit reduction of $3 trillion to $6 trillion, instead of the minimum requirement of $1.2 trillion that the panel must agree on by a Nov. 23 deadline.

This is all just completely vague, except for the firm commitment to throw the trigger in the garbage. As Suzy Khimm reports, no specifics were given. Mike Simpson, the lead for Republicans in the House of the “go big” caucus, admitted that a large portion of his party was “personally” against the revenue increases you would need to make a deal.

The typical dodge among wankers of this type is to claim that somebody else is to blame for not coming up with the specifics. That’s what Tom Friedman did today in the New York Times when he asked, “Does anyone know what President Obama’s preferred outcome is? Exactly which taxes does he want raised, and which spending does he want cut?” Actually, we do, the President wrote a detailed plan for the budget, and delivered a speech on it, too boot. But that’s the M.O., express support for a vague “big deal” and then criticize everyone else for not giving the specifics to get it done.

So this is theater, really. Republicans were willing to talk tough about not being bound by any tax pledges, which is easy to do when you anticipate that you’ll never have to face the vote. In reality, what the “go big” caucus said about the trigger – and their desire to, in a decidedly non-fiscal conservative way, junk it – is far more important than what they said about a Super Committee deal that isn’t coming together.

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David Dayen

David Dayen