‘Line’ Items: Post-Turkey Edition A Weekly Update on Budget and Fiscal Policy Developments and a Look Ahead

Stuffed – The Super Committee talked turkey, but in the end produced no meat. All that got placed before us was the warmed-over stuffing of partisan bickering and finger pointing. Americans have had their fill and are demanding action.

Gobbling Up Super Committee Leftovers – Some lawmakers are looking to step into the void caused by the Super Committee’s failure and are calling for a vote on a plan like the one that received bipartisan, majority support from the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Commission. New York Times Columnist Tom Friedman called on President Obama to endorse Bowles-Simpson and tie it to a stimulus package. Meanwhile, some policymakers want to reverse the $1.2 trillion in spending cuts that will kick in beginning in 2013 due to the lack of a Super Committee deal. But President Obama has vowed to veto any circumvention of the sequester trigger and congressional leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to the trigger. Hopefully, the discussion will turn instead to a renewed commitment to forging a comprehensive deficit reduction plan that could get the trigger removed.

Clean Up Time – Preparing the Thanksgiving feast is quite a chore, but the cleanup is sometimes even more strenuous. Congress has lots of dishes that need to be dealt with. Patches for the Medicare “doc fix” and the AMT expire at the end of the year, in addition to many tax extenders like the R&D tax credit. Then there is the matter of the expanded unemployment insurance benefits and payroll tax holiday that expire at the end of the year. The Senate is expected to vote soon on a measure extending and expanding the payroll tax holiday this week, with a 3.25 percent surtax on income above $1 million to offset the cost. But the bill is not expected to survive a filibuster. Of course, there are also the remaining nine FY 2012 spending bills. The current stopgap measure funding the federal government expires on December 16. The cleanest option is to roll up the bills into one package, but differences over spending levels and policy riders could make things as messy and crowded as the post-Thanksgiving sink.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times ET)

November 30

  • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a balanced budget amendment at 10 am.

December 1

  • GOP presidential debate in Arizona sponsored by CNN at 8 pm.

December 10

  • GOP presidential debate in Des Moines, IA sponsored by ABC News at 9 pm.

December 15

  • GOP presidential debate in Sioux City, IA sponsored by Fox News at 9 pm.

December 16

  • Continuing resolution (CR) currently funding federal government operations expires.

December 19

  • GOP presidential debate in Johnston, IA sponsored by PBS NewsHour, Google and YouTube at 4 pm.

December 31

  • Both houses of Congress must vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as required by the Budget Control Act.

January 3, 2012

  • Iowa Caucuses.

January 10, 2012

  • New Hampshire Primary.

January 21, 2012

  • South Carolina Primary.

January 31, 2012

  • Florida Primary.

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