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House Democrats Upset With Supercommittee Negotiations | The Nation

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George Zornick

George Zornick

Action and dysfunction in the Beltway swamp. E-mail tips to george@thenation.com

House Democrats Upset With Supercommittee Negotiations

As we’ve been reporting, Democrats on the supercommittee—led by Senator Max Baucus—are pursuing a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction, which would include tax increases, spending cuts, a new round of economic stimulus and steep cuts to both Medicare and Social Security. Republicans have rejected the deal in favor of their own, which basically includes all of the cuts and does not include tax increases nor stimulus spending.

But several Democratic members of the House are increasingly upset with how supercommittee Democrats are carrying out the negotiations, and are threatening to vote against a package that includes deep cuts to the safety net. Some are even planning an attempt to get rid of the supercommittee altogether.

Representative Maxine Waters of California has introduced a bill to repeal the supercommittee, and the $1.2 trillion in cuts it’s mandated to make. She believes the committee is “illegitimate” and “borders on unconstitutional.”

At a breakfast meeting with progressive reporters and bloggers today, Waters said she knows her bill probably doesn’t have the support to pass right now, but she wants it on the table if the supercommittee deadlocks. “Of course its’s a long shot. But right now people are getting more and more agitated, frustrated and concerned about this supercommittee and not happy that there are those who are saying, including the president, they want even bigger cuts,” Waters said. “So it may fall apart. If it falls apart my bill is there to say ‘kill it.’ ” She added that she’s spoken to several Republicans who are equally unhappy with the supercommittee’s power.

Waters’s frustration is shared by many Democrats in the House, who feel not only shut out from the process by colleagues in the Senate—Baucus is reportedly acting with guidance from Senate majority leader Harry Reid, leaving House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on the sidelines—but are also shocked at the level of cuts to Medicare and Social Security being proposed.

Representative Henry Waxman told Politico today that he has “no stake” in the committee and called it an “outrageous process” that is “not open and transparent.” He said the “things put forward by Democrats…I would never vote for.”

Much of the Democratic caucus could bolt from a supercommittee deal that looks like what Baucus has proposed, according to Representative Gerry Connolly in his remarks to Politico. “It’s a mistake to not bring [minority] leader Pelosi into meetings,” said Connolly .“If she’s not a stakeholder in a final product, neither is the Democratic caucus.”

With Republicans refusing to budge on revenues, a deadlock seems likely—meaning steep, across-the-board cuts to defense spending and domestic programs would be triggered. “I’ve always thought it will deadlock. I’ve never been one who believed anything meaningful would come out of it, if you assign six Republicans to it and they’ve all signed a pledge there can be no revenues,” Representative Peter DeFazio told me this morning at the breakfast.

Some Republicans have already publicly pledged to undo the defense cuts if the triggers are activated—and Waters said today some Democrats would likely try to protect domestic spending cuts.

It’s far from clear what the end result will be, but it’s pretty clear that nobody will like it—and many will try to change it.

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