Why the super-committee is moving backwards

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction — better known as the super-committee — has one week to go before it’s supposed to present a bipartisan debt-reduction plan totaling at least $1.2 trillion. By all indications, the panel is failing miserably, and as of yesterday, was moving backwards.

The process may seem a little complicated, but the sticking points are straightforward and predictable. Democrats want a balanced package, including a combination of spending cuts and new tax revenue, along with measures to address the top Democratic priority: job creation.

Republicans want massive spending cuts, no investments in the economy, and tax cuts — which move the super-committee further from its goal, not closer.

There’s been some talk lately about GOP willingness to accept some new revenue, a move that has impressed some media figures like David Gregory and Judy Woodroff. They’re overlooking all of the relevant details — Republicans are willing to accept $250 billion in new revenue through limiting deductions and write-offs, but only if Democrats make all of the Bush-era tax cuts permanent, at a cost of $3.7 trillion that the GOP has no intention of paying for.

Yes, the Republican debt-reduction proposal deliberately increases the debt. Welcome to GOP politics in the 21st century.

While some in the media inexplicably find this impressive, Democrats and those aware of the details do not. And so, with a week to go, nothing is happening.

Perhaps the most amusing angle of the debate at this point is the intra-party conflict among Republicans.

On one side of the revenue debate are conservative Republicans like Hensarling of Texas and Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, two members of the deficit cutting supercommittee, who are privately telling their colleagues that they aren’t abandoning their principles by raising several hundreds of billions in fresh revenue by closing loopholes, as long as Congress is able to lower tax rates across the board.

On the other side are conservatives like Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and roughly 70 House Republicans, who are adamantly opposed to the bulk of the revenue raisers proposed, warning it’s bad policy and politics, and could become a black eye for their party.

Got that? The GOP divide is between right-wing members (those willing to trade $250 billion in new revenue for $3.7 trillion in tax cuts, mostly benefiting the wealthy) and very right-wing members (those who want to reduce the debt without accepting any revenue at all).

Making matters slightly worse, Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) told CNBC last night that he wanted to see a debt-reduction plan that was 100% spending cuts, combined with additional tax cuts, and that’s “as far as we feel we can go.”

Hensarling is the co-chair of the entire super-committee.

When this panel fails next week, major news organizations will tell the public that “both sides” chose not to reach an agreement. Those reports will be wrong.