THE PLANK DECEMBER 9, 2009
Judd Gregg and Kent Conrad today are introducing a bill to create a bipartisan commission to reduce the federal budget deficit. In their press release, they state:
Importantly, the task force would ensure a bipartisan outcome. Broad bipartisan agreement would be required to move anything forward. Fourteen of the 18 Task Force members would have to agree to report the recommendations. And final passage would require supermajorities in both the Senate and House.
“Our Bipartisan Fiscal Task Force is designed to get results,” said Conrad and Gregg.
Let me get this straight. You have a commission proposing a package of highly unpopular legislative changes. And, in addition to having to surmount the 60-vote barrier in the Senate, which is nearly insurmountable for major legislation and which was avoided for both of the last two major deficit-reducing bills, it's also going to impose a new supermajority requirement in the House and a 78% threshold in the commission itself?
To say that this procedure "is designed to get results" shows a very odd understanding of American political institutions. Conrad and Gregg seem to think that instituting major reforms in the public interest is rare because the threshold for passing legislation is too low. Thus they've designed a process that creates new and higher supermajority requirements, on an issue where getting even 51% to sign on is probably impossible. And if that fails, maybe they'll conclude the process was too easy. Next time they could also require the commission members to create a cold fusion reactor or retrieve a magical ring from inside a volcano.