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Posted at 11:40 AM ET, 12/ 3/2010

The fiscal commission succeeded -- sort of

By Ezra Klein


There are a few ways to look at the final vote on the Simpson-Bowles plan:

One way is that the 11 votes they got is fewer than the 14 votes they needed to recommend the plan to Congress.

Another is that the 11 votes they got is not only more than a majority, but more than 60 percent, so if this was the Senate, the plan would've just beat a filibuster. That is to say, they got a supermajority, even if it wasn't the supermajority they needed.

A third is that the 11 votes they got were not 11 votes for the plan. Rather, there were some votes for the plan and some votes for the plan's legitimacy as a starting point for congressional debate. Sens. Dick Durbin and Mike Crapo are both in the latter camp. Some of the "no" votes, like those from Andy Stern and Rep. Paul Ryan, also argued that Congress should use the bill to begin a debate.

With liberals like Durbin and conservatives like Tom Coburn both endorsing the plan as a good start, it's got enough credibility for Congress or the president to take it on -- and that's really all it could ever have done. If Congress and the president want an excuse to work on deficit reduction, they've got one. If they don't want to work on deficit reduction, then no plan ever had a chance.

A few weeks ago, I said the fiscal commission had failed in its political mission. I was wrong. It didn't succeed in securing the consensus vote it needed, but it got a lot closer than I thought it would, and I think close enough for the commission's purposes. Now it's up to the relevant politicians, as, in the end, it always was.

Related: The four best and five worst ideas in the report.

Photo credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images.

By Ezra Klein  | December 3, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Democrats have few options on the tax cuts -- but that's their fault
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Debating deficit reduction when our primary issues are employment and the economy is a mistake. It takes valuable attention away from the real issues and will likely make matters worse.

Posted by: fuse | December 3, 2010 11:57 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry Ezra but you sound hacktacular in this posting.

You're ignoring the panel's structural dynamic, because of the 14 out of 18 supermajority requirement. The fact that Republicans on the panel were adamant not to consider tax hikes or any HCR that hurt healthcare industries, that drastically narrowed the scope of what the panel could consider if they had any hope of getting 14 votes.

And even then, not all the Republicans voted for it, swell. They successfully shifted the political debate to the right and people of good will such as yourself are cheering them on.

Hey, here's an idea why not have our elected congressmen and senator hash out budget issues with majority rule voting, call it a "budget reconciliation bill" or what not. That would almost certainly produce better policy than this weird hybrid commission that made the Senate filibuster rules look reasonable.

Posted by: beowulf_ | December 3, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Another way to look at it: with Gregg retiring and Spratt having lost his seat, there are only ten active politicians on the commission, and six of them voted no.

Posted by: misterjrthed | December 3, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Why on earth is some dbag from SEIU on the panel in the first place when the sole purpose of public sector unions is to bleed the taxpayer?

Posted by: krazen1211 | December 3, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Another way to look at it is that all your posts on this were a total waste as I told you that this would never fly on any level.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 3, 2010 1:45 PM | Report abuse

The catfood commission is to give cowardly Obama cover. It served its purpose and even exposed some dems as the Obama buttlickers they are. Obama is going to screw over the middle class and poor like we've never been screwed over before. The catfood commission told him exactly what he wanted to hear because Obama IS the catfood commission.

If Bush were sober he'd probably be gnashing his teeth in envy that Obama will destroy Social Security the way Bush could only have dreamed of doing.

Obama doesn't give a hoot about the deficit. Neither do the repugs. The pretense that any of them do is simply laughable. They are all about making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

Posted by: solsticebelle | December 3, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Another way to look at it is that all your posts on this were a total waste as I told you that this would never fly on any level.

Posted by: 5446544
LOL! Never fly??? Stop patting yourself on the back and take a look at reality. Just because the catfood commission's proposal to destroy the middle class didn't get quite enough votes doesn't mean squat. Obama is going to do everything they want anyway, at least the parts that hurt the middle class and retired people. He certainly won't do a thing to hurt the rich.

Posted by: solsticebelle | December 3, 2010 1:58 PM | Report abuse


Sometimes I do deserve a kick in the pants. LOL

It's very frustrating that Ezra bills this an economic policy column.

If you did a word search, Bowles and Simpson probably have come up in this column dozens of times in the last, three weeks is it now? Yet, they couldn't even get agreement among 14 people.

Meanwhile, Ben Bernanke is not only king of the US, but king of most of the economic world, as we found out this week, with hardly ever a mention of his name from Ezra.

You don't have to believe me of course, and you won't, but nothing that goes on between Congress and the President on taxes or anything else is as important to our economy as the conversations that Bernanke has with himself in the mirror while brushing his teeth each morning.

Posted by: 54465446 | December 3, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

Another way to put it is that not everyone bought the crap. There's no evidence in this report to back up the economics. Why are we focused on the deficit right now when unemployment hit 9.6% in the latest report? It's all just based on emotion -- mostly fear mongering. For all who don't buy it, you must read this analysis by progressive economist James K. Galbraith:

Posted by: BryceCovert | December 3, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

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