Skeptics Abound as Supercommittee Deadline Nears

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WASHINGTON -- As the clock ticks toward the Thanksgiving holiday deadline, there's growing concern whether Washington's "supercommittee" will meet its goal of cutting $1.5 trillion from the deficit.

Erskine Bowles, co-chair of President Barack Obama's fiscal commission, gave the committee's 12 members the verbal equivalent of a pat on the back and a smack in the face in one fell swoop.

"I have great respect for each of you individually, but collectively, I'm worried you're going to fail," he told the lawmakers at a Nov. 1 hearing.

The Supercommittee
     
The congressional super committee is a product of last summer's contentious debate to raise the government's debt ceiling.
    
The six Republicans and six Democrats were charged with doing something all 535 members of Congress and the White House could not -- compromise on a bipartisan plan to address the nation's out-of-control spending and bloated government.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who's on the committee, told CBN News he sees the bipartisan panel as a last-ditch effort address the nation's financial woes.

"The reason this committee is necessary is because nothing else has worked," Portman said.
    
Still, some are skeptical of the committee's chance of success.

"To ask any 12 individuals to come up with a plan, I think, it's unreasonable, wishful thinking," said Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government.
    
Others, like Elizabeth Rose of the liberal policy group Campaign for America's Future, openly hope the committee will flop.

"The best that that could happen for this country is for the super committee to fail," she said.
 
Rose says if the super committee succeeds, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will be on the chopping block, hurting those most in need.
    
If the committee fails to come up with a plan to present to Congress, and Congress fails to pass the measure, it would result in automatic politically painful cuts to defense and domestic programs -- something neither party wants.

The Sticking Point 
   
But getting to an agreement to avoid such a grim outcome is certain to be tough. As is often the case in these political battles, the major sticking point is taxes.
 
"Republicans want more spending cuts and no tax rate increases, and Democrats want fewer spending cuts and tax rate increases, so it's a pretty sharp divide," Fred Barnes, executive editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, told CBN News.
   
Barnes says the supercommittee could come up with a compromise deal that would achieve the following:

  • Help jumpstart the economy.
  • Create jobs through changes in the tax code that don't include raising rates on businesses or individuals.
  •  Reform the system by freezing or even lowering tax rates -- and getting rid of loopholes.

Obama Hoping for Failure?
    
But Barnes believes the president secretly wants the committee to fail to help his campaign for re-election so he can run against a "do-nothing" Republican Congress.

"That seems to be what the president wants to do," Barnes told CBN News. "He's running against the rich. He's running a class warfare campaign. And, that whole offensive by President Obama undermines any possible tax reform."
    
It's a narrative echoed by organizations like Campaign for America's Future.

"Do you want inequality? Do you want the rich to get richer? Do you want the middle class to have a base? I think it's going to be important for people to think about these issues in the next election," Rose told CBN News.

Should the committee and Congress fail, the fallout wouldn't just hit Congress.

It would also mar Obama on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, calling into question the credibility of Washington's governing institutions -- and whether they still work for the good of the American people.

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.