Rep. Barney Frank: Supercommittee failure ‘good news’ for Dems

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said the congressional supercommittee's failure Monday to come to an agreement on spending reforms was “good news” because it will help to end the Bush-era tax cuts and give Democrats more bargaining power in budget negotiations.

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Groups on the edges of both the liberal and conservative spectrums have cheered the death of the supercommittee. Liberal groups like the Progressive Change Campaign Committee were happy that programs such as Social Security and Medicare were spared, while Tea Party conservative groups applauded the breakdown in talks because no tax increases emerged from the deficit-reduction panel.

The supercommittee’s failure to reach an agreement sets in motion $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts set to take effect in 2013 through sequestration. 

Half of those cuts are to defense initiatives, which has hawks in Congress vowing to undo them. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Monday that he was readying a bill that would prevent the defense cuts.

Frank, who has long advocated for a smaller military budget said that gives Democrats the upper hand, citing President Obama’s threat Monday to veto attempts to avoid the cuts altogether.

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“The people who want to say ‘no’ have more leverage,” Frank said in a telephone interview. “Every showdown until now, the right wing had more leverage. They tended to benefit more from gridlock. Now, thanks to sequestration and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, gridlock is bad for the right wing. So they are now going to be forced to deal.”

Frank said the supercommittee’s inability to produce a plan was not a failure of Congress, but rather a reflection of the country’s “peak divisions.”

He said that Democrats should offer to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and end them for the wealthy, counting that as savings against the automatic cuts.

“And if you don’t like it,” Frank said, “well, then we’ll just sit back, see sequestration and the taxes go up on everybody.”


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