JSCDR First Meeting & “Recommendations”

Congressional action

Find Deficit Cuts!

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reductions (JSCDR) is charged with identifying $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts by November 23. Should the Committee not surface at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, automatic cuts will be triggered to domestic and defense program spending in 2013. The first meeting of the JSCDR showcased some of the major difficulties panel members will face over the course of the next 76 days.

Kyl says “No” to DoD Cuts

Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) essentially drew a line in the sand on additional cuts to the Department of Defense budget, stating he would walk away from talks if they were presented. Some democrats brought up the idea of re-surfacing some of the ideas from earlier deficit reduction panels. This was a non-starter for republicans as those ideas included revenue raisers (additional taxes). Exacerbating an already tenuous situation, the President’s speech outlining the American Jobs Act to a Joint Session of Congress asked the JSCDR to add another $500 billion to the already $1.5 trillion in cuts they are mandated to surface. U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) a member of the 12-member JSCDR publicly aired his concern that the Administration will make the JSCDR’s job more difficult.

What exactly is a “recommendation”?

Moreover, since passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that created and granted broad authorities to the JSCDR more questions have been raised by professionals on and around Capitol Hill than there are available answers. Although, the statute defines recommendations as those, “changes in law to reduce the deficit consistent with the goal described in (the statute),” there still remains confusion on what exactly is a recommendation. Is reauthorization legislation spanning five years or more into the future like the entire Farm Bill or Surface Transportation legislation considered a recommendation? Is it a recommendation if the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees propose an overhaul of the U.S. tax system and do we need this recommendation now so we better understand the estimated amount of revenues to expect each year?

Does the creation of the JSCDR usurp the traditional budget reconciliation process? The Budget Control Act stipulates a top-line number for the broad categories of security and non-security discretionary spending. It further stipulates that for respective Committees allocations should be consistent with the CBO’s (revised) March 2011 baseline, adjusted for the budgetary impacts of the Act, for the period FY 2012-2021.

Let’s hope more clarification comes soon from the JSCDR on recommendations to be provided by congressional committees.


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Tim Cansler