If this doesn’t alarm you, nothing will. (Updated below.)

24 Jul

It appears that with the approval of Obama and the heavy-hitters in Congress, our legislative bodies have decided to contemplate a complete usurpation of the way our Constitutional system works.  A plan, put forth by Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid (who, despite their bland physical appearance, are in reality soulless golems –  monsters) would create a Super Congress composed of only 12 members of Congress.  This new body would have the right to draft legislation which would not be subject to debate, amendments, or any other such democratic niceties.  The implications here are staggering: this is not the same thing as a committee making recommendations which the full Congress then has hearings and discussions on, followed by suggestions for amendments and a vote.  This is a fairly straight-forward attempt to thwart that whole process and the very reason we have a Congress.  This idea, if accepted, creates an ipso-facto top echelon of little oligarchs within the Congress who would be allowed to rule by fiat.

This is the final act in our American drama and the end to our democratic processes.

Here is how the Super Congress plan is explained by Ryan Grim at the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — Debt ceiling negotiators think they’ve hit on a solution to address the debt ceiling impasse and the public’s unwillingness to let go of benefits such as Medicare and Social Security that have been earned over a lifetime of work: Create a new Congress.

This “Super Congress,” composed of members of both chambers and both parties, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Constitution, but would be granted extraordinary new powers. Under a plan put forth by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his counterpart Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), legislation to lift the debt ceiling would be accompanied by the creation of a 12-member panel made up of 12 lawmakers — six from each chamber and six from each party.

Legislation approved by the Super Congress — which some on Capitol Hill are calling the “super committee” — would then be fast-tracked through both chambers, where it couldn’t be amended by simple, regular lawmakers, who’d have the ability only to cast an up or down vote. With the weight of both leaderships behind it, a product originated by the Super Congress would have a strong chance of moving through the little Congress and quickly becoming law. A Super Congress would be less accountable than the system that exists today, and would find it easier to strip the public of popular benefits. Negotiators are currently considering cutting the mortgage deduction and tax credits for retirement savings, for instance, extremely popular policies that would be difficult to slice up using the traditional legislative process.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has made a Super Congress a central part of his last-minute proposal, multiple news reports and people familiar with his plan say. A picture of Boehner’s proposal began to come into focus Saturday evening: The debt ceiling would be raised for a short-term period and coupled with an equal dollar figure of cuts, somewhere in the vicinity of a trillion dollars over ten years. A second increase in the debt ceiling would be tied to the creation of a Super Congress that would be required to find a minimum amount of spending cuts. Because the the elevated panel would need at least one Democratic vote, it would be presumably include at least some revenue, though, if it’s anything like the deals on the table today, would likely be heavily slanted toward spending cuts. Or, as Obama said of the deal he was offering Republicans before Boehner walked out, “If it was unbalanced, it was unbalanced in the direction of not enough revenue.”

Republicans, however, are looking to force a second debt ceiling fight as part of the package, despite the Democratic rejection of the plan. Under the Republican plan, lawmakers would need to weigh in on the debt ceiling during the heat of the presidential election, a proposal Democrats reject as risky to the nation’s credit rating. “We expressed openness to two stages of cuts, but not to a short-term debt limit extension,” a Democratic aide close to the negotiations said. “Republicans only want the debt ceiling extended as far as the cuts in each tranch. That means we’ll be right back where we are today a few months down the road. We are not a Banana Republic. You don’t run America like that.”

The aide said that Democrats are open to a series of cuts as well as a Super Congress, but only if the debt ceiling is raised sufficiently so that it pushes past the election. “Our proposal tonight was, do two tranches of cuts, but raise the debt ceiling through 2012 right now, though the McConnell process would be one way,” said the aide, leaving open the possibility that Boehner could craft a new process and distinguish it from McConnell’s, which the Tea Party despises as a dereliction of duty. “Do that now with a package of cuts, and have the joint committee” — the Super Congress — “report out a package that would be the second tranch. Republicans rejected that, and continued to push a short-term despite the fact that Reid, Pelosi and Obama all could not have been clearer that they will not support a short-term increase. A short term risks some of the same consequences as outright failure to raise the ceiling — downgraded credit rating, stocks plunge, interest rates spike, etc. It is unclear why Republicans have made this their sticking point.”…

Obama has shown himself to be a fan of the commission approach to cutting social programs and entitlements. Shortly after taking office, Obama held a major conference on deficit reduction and subsequently created, by executive order, The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The White House made two telling appointments to chair the commission: The first was former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wy.), a well known and ill informed critic of Social Security who earned notoriety by suggesting, among other things, that the American government had become “a milk cow with 310 million tits!” His Democratic appointment was even more indicative of whose interests took priority, former Sen. Erskine Bowles (D-N.C.). Bowles is a member of Morgan Stanley’s board of directors; an adviser to Carousel Capital, a private equity firm; and is a director of Cousins Properties Incorporated, a firm with significant investments in commercial and mixed-use real estate.

Simpson and Bowles, unsurprisingly, produced a report recommending corporate and high-end tax cuts, along with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ benefits and a host of other social programs.The commission needed 14 of 18 members to approve the plan in order for it to advance to Congress for a vote. The commission fell short, but did win a majority.

Proponents of slashing spending won’t make the same mistake with a new Super Congress. Only a simple majority will be necessary.

You surely see where this is going, don’t you?  Eventually, you have all the laws written by a small group of elite members of Congress, with the entire balance left as mere window dressing up-and-down voters to give the faintest tinge of “democracy at work” blushing to what is actually a junta ruling over the country.  There is no limit to the number of issues which could be declared “important” enough to be handled via a fast-track through the elite Super Congress.  Why not all of them?  It’s all important stuff, right?

This is all aside from the fact that the debt ceiling should be handled as a stand-alone, clean vote, the way it always was until Obama began tinkering with that process the last time.  (When last we saw our debt ceiling, Obama had traded the 2-year extension of the Bush tax cuts in return for a temporary increase in the debt ceiling.  Before the Republicans even asked for it.)  The deficit issues have no place in the debt ceiling debate and deserve a full discussion process with a full Congress, with the citizens given time to weigh in with their representatives.  We should not change our entire social bargain based on the secretive bargaining of a committee of 12 with only up and down votes allowed by the full Congress.


Ryan Grim has updated his article here (this is an update from what is actually the second article he wrote on the subject; the article I quoted above was his first).

He points out the teabaggers hate the idea, not because it is unConstitutional or gives too much power to too few, but because they think it would raise taxes.  Getting rid of the New Deal, not such an issue with them.  They are retarded.  Sorry, I just had to point that out in case anyone has missed it.

Here are some bits from his new article with its update:

WASHINGTON — A powerful coalition that includes Tea Party members of Congress rejected a debt ceiling offer from House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Monday, calling a proposed bipartisan, bicameral committee that would draft deficit-reduction legislation “troubling” — not because it would afford too much power to too few people, but because they said it could lead to tax increases.

Nevertheless, separate proposals put forward by Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday each included versions of a Super Congress — referred to on the Hill as a Super Committee — that would write laws that could not be amended by the regular Congress, only voted up or down. In Boehner’s version, the debt ceiling would be raised a second time if Congress approved the cuts decided on by the Super Congress….

The liberal advocacy organization, meanwhile, argued that any joint committee empowered to make cuts should specifically exempt Medicare and Social Security from cuts, and is organizing members in opposition. “[A]ny Joint Congressional Commission must be set up in such a way that it protects Social Security and Medicare benefits. Any plan that includes a backdoor to cut those vital programs is just as unacceptable as one that puts the cuts up front,” said MoveOn head Justin Ruben.

[My note: apparently MoveOn is also missing the larger picture.  They only oppose the Super Congress because it might cut SS, and fail to see the threat inherent in the whole concept.  That’s just lame.]

Progressive opponents of the Super Congress, however, argue that its very purpose is to cut entitlements, so negotiating its parliamentary outline misses the point. Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) told that he would approve of a “commission that makes recommendations,” but not one empowered to send fast-track legislation to Congress. “But if it’s got any kind of parliamentary advantage, then no,” he said.

Boehner described the new legislative body in a summary of his proposal released by his office Monday afternoon:

The framework creates a Joint Committee of Congress that is required to report legislation that would produce a proposal to reduce the deficit by at least $1.8 trillion over 10 years. Each Chamber would consider the proposal of the Joint Committee on an up-or-down basis without any amendments. If the proposal is enacted, then the President would be authorized to request a debt limit increase of $1.6 trillion.

The structure of Reid’s proposed Super Congress is similar to Boehner’s…,

Reid’s plan, according to a spokesperson, would create a 12-member body that includes six Democrats and six Republicans, with an equal number coming from the House and Senate. Legislation would need seven votes before heading for Congress, where it would face a fast-tracked, up or down vote.

The Super Congress amounts to an institutionalization of the gang structure that exists informally in the Senate, where a small number of lawmakers write legislation behind closed doors and then announce it to the public. Legislation written by the Super Congress would be extremely difficult for individual members of Congress to stop.

UPDATE: MoveOn’s Justin Ruben sends the following statement firmly opposing a Super Congress that would be able to cut Social Security or Medicare: “Republicans want a Super Congress so they can push through unpopular cuts to Medicare and Social Security. MoveOn members, and the vast majority of Americans, oppose benefit cuts, and Democrats shouldn’t give Republicans a vehicle to make it easier to cut them. MoveOn members oppose the idea.”

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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in austerity, Congress, corporatocracy, economy


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