The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

November 26, 2011

Debt panel falls flat

New Castle — Let the finger pointing begin!

Actually, it began days before members of the special congressional committee, assigned to devise a deficit-reduction plan, admitted failure this week.

In accordance with the typical political script in Washington, officials from both political parties were busy blaming each other for the inability to reach an agreement. At the same time, they worked to persuade an increasingly sullen and disgusted electorate that this dereliction of duty wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

That’s an interesting argument. When the supercommittee of 12 — six Democrats and six Republicans from the House and Senate — was established over the summer, Americans were told it had to succeed.

Because the legislation that had created it came with a poison pill: If the panel deadlocked or if the full Congress refused to endorse their plan, dangerous and draconian budget cuts would kick in automatically.

We were told lawmakers would be loathe to face the American people and try to explain such cuts, so compromise was all but ensured.

But a funny thing happened on the way to achieving that rosy scenario of harmonious accord: Advocates of the plan forgot to notice how divided and how entrenched Congress actually is.

Supposedly, members of the supercommittee managed to achieve some common ground and break a few barriers with their internal discussions. But when proposals were taken back to the full caucuses in the House and Senate, the hard-liners rose up in opposition and refused to back any such deals.

At least that’s what we’re being told. The supercommittee’s negotiations were conducted behind closed doors. The public has no firsthand knowledge of what happened.

This secrecy was defended as a means of allowing panel members to negotiate difficult decisions without worrying about instantaneous criticism. The closed doors were presented as a way to ensure a deal would be achieved.

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