Jacob Sullum

McConnell and his Democratic co-conspirator, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have baited the trap with promises of yet another fiscal commission. Didn't we just have one of those, with 18 members appointed jointly by Congress and the president? After much sober discussion and serious debate, it delivered its report last December, directly into the national memory hole.

This new commission will be totally different. According to The Hill, it will be "a special bipartisan committee" with only six members, all of them drawn from Congress. If four of them can agree on a package of spending cuts, Congress will have to vote it up or down, without amendment. This time for sure!

You may be thinking: Doesn't Congress already have "special bipartisan committees" that deal with spending? You may also be thinking: If a majority of Congress can agree on a package of spending cuts, why hasn't it already done that?

A balanced budget amendment, favored by many fiscal conservatives, likewise reeks of failure. If Congress can't muster a simple majority to balance the budget, how likely is it to muster a supermajority that (assuming at least 38 state legislatures eventually agree) forces it to balance the budget? The amendment sounds to me like a desperate whine: "Stop us before we spend again!"

Is it any wonder that the public has such a low opinion of Congress? According to a recent CBS News poll, only 31 percent of Americans approve of the way Democrats have handled the budget negotiations, while the approval rating for Republicans is just 21 percent. By continuing to abdicate their legislative responsibilities, both parties seem determined to see how low they can go.

Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
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