Yesterday, even as voters in Massachusetts were immolating themselves in protest against business as usual, news broke that the White House is embracing the inane idea put forth by Senators Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), that they should be allowed to create a special blue-ribbon deficit commission that will enable lawmakers to pawn off the necessity of making tough choices on a new governing body that's designed to bog down in gridlock, entertain lobbyists, and pointlessly spend taxpayer dollars on a self-promoting P.R. campaign.
Matt Yglesias says today that he's "gotten some mail in my inbox from progressive groups trying to organize against this," but doesn't see the point in doing so. (See related story: Progressive Coalition Warns Congress, Obama Against Deficit Commission.) He's right. This panel, which is to be composed of eight lawmakers from each party and a pair of White House emissaries (or maybe 12 members appointed by Congress and six by the White House) would in either case require 14 out of the 18 votes to send a proposal to Congress. From there, enacting any proposal would require a 60 percent supermajority of both the House and the Senate to send a bill to President Barack Obama's desk.
I don't know if you've been paying close attention to how things have been going in Congress lately, but those vote-hurdles are so high that they basically guarantee that nothing is going to come of this.
My instincts tell me that if this poses a threat in any way, it will come in the form of a sustained media campaign designed to make massive cuts in entitlement programs seem like a palatable solution to the budget crisis. That's not nothing, but that's about it. This commission is one more piece of Beltway prestidigitation designed to sell activity as a substitute for achievement.