The fiscal commission succeeded -- sort of
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.
| December 3, 2010; 11:40 AM ET
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