Super Committee Fails to Come to Agreement, Triggers $1.2 Trillion in Mandatory Cuts

It's official, the Super Committee has failed. Despite a desperate final attempt at a deal, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has called it quits, failing to muster any agreement from its evenly split constituency. In a statement by its two co-chairs, the twelve member panel said that they were "deeply disappointed that [they] have been unable to come to a bipartisan deficit reduction agreement" and thanked all members for their efforts and service.

The committee, itself a result of the polarizing partisanship gripping Congress in the debt ceiling fight from earlier this summer, seems to have succumbed to the same ideological differences that spawned it in the first place.

Reactions to the committee’s failure were quick and fiery. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) blamed Republicans for failing to break ranks with tax-pledge lobbyist Grover Norquist and their more extreme Tea Party constituencies. "I am disappointed that Republican never found the courage to ignore Tea Party extremists and millionaire lobbyists like Grover Norquist," said Reid, arguing that Republican Super Committee Members should have "listen[ed] to the overwhelming majority of Americans" and found a more "balanced approach to deficit reduction."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that while "disappointed" with the Super Committee’s failure, Republicans would "forge ahead with the commitments we have made to reducing government spending." Boehner credited the work of the committee as a distillation that brought "our enormous fiscal challenges into greater focus."

The true fallout of the committee’s failure to find an agreement will become more apparent over the next few weeks. The mandatory sequester, an automatic reduction in spending that begins in 2013, must amount to a $1.2 trillion cut over the next ten years, equaling a decrease of roughly $110 billion a year. Approximately half of the cuts must come from military spending and the remainder will be pulled from the rest of the discretionary budget, including a 2% reduction in Medicare reimbursement.

Republicans have already been falling over themselves in an effort to introduce bills that would repeal the military sequester before it comes into effect on January 1, 2013.

Reid has made it clear that he will not back down on the deal that originally created the Super Committee. "Make no mistake: We will achieve the more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction we agreed to in August," said Reid. "The sequester was designed to be painful, and it is," he continued, noting that until revenue increases are put on the table, any attempts to repeal the defense spending sequester will be quashed in the Senate. "In the absence of a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit … I will oppose any efforts to change or roll back the sequester."

The respective political media machines will go into overdrive this week, with Democrats blaming Republicans for failing to buck Norquist and Republicans accusing Democrats of making empty offers concerning entitlement reform.

The fireworks will really kick-in come December as the issues of Medicare reimbursement, unemployment insurance, and President Obama’s payroll tax cut come on the table for renewal. The partisan bickering will reach new heights as Congress tries to come to some agreement before the end of the year.

With the 112th Congress convening for another full year, it is hard to imagine what the fights over the expiration of the Bush Tax Cuts and the implementation of the mandatory sequesters are going to look like heading into the next election season. One thing is for sure: This year’s great congressional experiment has failed and with it went seemingly any potential at bipartisan cooperation.

Photo Credit: johanohrling

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Mark Kogan

Mark is a lawyer and Mic contributor living in Washington, D.C.

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