Senate Rejects Deficit Commission, Provides Ironic, Teachable Moment

Yesterday, the Senate failed to enact the blue-ribbon deficit reduction commission proposal floated by Senators Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), and later endorsed by President Barack Obama.

This result will have a net positive impact on actual deficit reduction, since the only substantive thing that this commission would have achieved would have been to expend taxpayer dollars on promoting itself. That said, I don't want this moment to pass without pointing out the ironic, teachable moment provided by this vote:

Tuesday's 53-46 vote on a bipartisan deficit commission was an attempt to break loose, but the measure fell seven votes short of the 60 needed.

See, under the current conditions that govern the legislative process, getting any single piece of budget-related legislation past the Senate supermajority is hard. But what's much, much harder is getting any single piece of budget-related legislation past supermajorities on a special commission, the House of Representatives and the Senate. What needs to be recognized is that budget problems aren't going to be solved by making the process of solving them titanically harder.

This rather obvious lesson seems to be coming to naught, since it looks like Obama is set to create this useless commission through an executive order (his commission will not be able to force Congress to vote on its recommendations). But suffice it to say, Gregg and Conrad are free, if they wish -- right now, today -- to form some "Gang of Two" and enumerate their own set of budget priorities and begin the process of campaigning, coercing and cajoling their colleagues to pass their bill into law. Although it remains arduous, the process would be immeasurably more achievable than it would be under the proposed commission.

Of course, that all ignores the fact that the purpose of the commission was to insulate legislators from owning tough choices, and allowing the self-styled deficit peacock caucus to preen for reporters.

One of the protesters, Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., said he remained undecided Tuesday on the question of raising the debt limit, though he spoke favorably of creating a commission by executive order.

Wonkette's Jim Newell paraphrased this best: "I'm thinking the government should default on its debt, but I am in favor of letting Obama try and fail to fix this on his own, without me taking a single hard vote about anything I supposedly support."

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