Advancing a Free Society

Two Joint Committee structures that could succeed

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Budget Control Act creates a Joint Committee whose goal is to recommend legislation that will reduce the deficit by $1.8 T over the next ten years.

Many are predicting that, like many other special fiscal committees and commissions before them, this one will deadlock, resulting in triggered automatic spending cuts in discretionary spending and Medicare.

This reasonable prediction results from the structure of the Committee:

  • Speaker Boehner and Leaders Pelosi, Reid, and McConnell each appoint 3 Members (of the House or Senate) for a total of 12 on the Committee;
  • you need a majority (7 of 12) to make recommendations.

Each of the four leaders represents a partisan caucus. Each caucus has a political center of gravity that leans toward its wing. If “the other side” can pick off just one of the six appointees of your party, they can run the table. These factors create an incentive for each leader to choose reliable Members who are closer to the wing of the party than the middle, and thereby decrease the chance for a negotiated agreement.

I can think of two other structures for a Joint Committee that could have been written into law and would have a much greater chance of reaching a solution. There may be others.

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