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'This Marriage is Over'

Unsurprisingly, the supercommittee tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from the budget is slated to admit defeat this week, as its Wednesday deadline looms. Reports have surfaced that on Monday, co-chair Patty Murray will concede failure.


Politico’s Mike Allen gives a great behind-the-scenes rundown explaining what happened to the ill-fated group of twelve legislators, and what to expect in the coming days.

The supercommittee last met Nov. 1 – three weeks ago! It was a public hearing featuring a history lesson, “Overview of Previous Debt Proposals,” with Alan Simpson, Erskine Bowles, Pete Domenici and Alice Rivlin. The last PRIVATE meeting was Oct. 26. You might as well stop reading right there: The 12 members (6 House, 6 Senate; 6 R, 6 D) were never going to strike a bargain, grand or otherwise, if they weren’t talking to each other. Yes, we get that real deal-making occurs in small groups. But there never WAS a functioning supercommittee: There was Republican posturing and Democratic posturing, with some side conversations across the aisle. 

Knowing that the whole group hasn’t been in a room together since November 1st might provide some insight into its lack of progress, but also calls into question the unprecedented practice of assembling a supercommittee -- or at least of doing so sans guidelines about how much it should meet.

On the bright side, it appears that in its death throes, the supercommittee will spare us all further partisan bickering. Even they, it seems, are exhausted by it:

The co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), on Monday will issue a short joint statement with the basic message: “This marriage is over.” Other possibilities are to hold a short going-out-of-business hearing, or to vote down a Republican proposal and a Democratic proposal. But one aide says: “Few, if any, one either side, want a final, ugly food fight … The chairs are working to figure out how to put the appropriate period on the sentence and do so in the most dignified manner possible. … [Don’t expect] a showdown of dueling voters and a ton of fingerpointing.”

So what was the central conflict? It seems to have come down to one contentious issue: Democrats’ unwillingness to extend the Bush tax cuts.

A Democratic participant: “It became clear on our end that this all came down to [insistence on extending] the Bush tax cuts for Republicans, and that was the immovable object at the end of the day.”

Despite the fact that many foresaw the supercommittee’s failure, it’s still disheartening to realize that our country has now gone 937 days without Congress passing a budget. Watching the economic chaos now befalling Europe, I do have to wonder why our government is so flagrantly irresponsible with our own finances. Here’s hoping the 2012 election brings some fresh perspectives to Congress, and a willingness to do what’s best for our country, and not partisan allegiances.



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