Remember the supercommittee?

Sure, crisis was averted this week, with the Senate Democrats and House Republicans agreeing to move forward with a deal on disaster-relief funding and short-term funding for the government to continue operating through Nov. 18. And did they compromise in the interest of a shared goal or a concern that it might finally be time to start governing? No, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) found some stray dollars that would take them through the end of this week, bumping Saturday into another pocket of money for another fiscal year. Makes the American people wonder even more about federal government math. But it also said a lot about the two parties and their interest in compromise. They bickered as they agreed to the deal, and it bodes terribly for the months to come.

Meanwhile, as the Congress buys itself another few weeks on the battle to fund fiscal 2012, the supercommittee is busy working behind the scenes to build consensus on a plan to trim $1.5 trillion in spending. They are under threat of a veto from President Obama, should the 12 members ever decide to back entitlement reforms that affect beneficiaries without raising taxes on the wealthy, as Republicans have indicated once again they will never support tax increases of any kind at any time. The president's jobs plan is DOA in the supercommittee, but considerable pressure remains on the panel to find up to $4 trillion in savings in a toxic political environment — essentially to succeed where others have failed so many times before.

I have had my doubts about the supercommittee from the start. The day after the debt-ceiling deal passed the Congress on Aug. 2 and averted default, I wrote a column about why I suspected the committee was designed to fail. Others were more hopeful — including my friend Charles Krauthammer, who wrote the following day that he had hope the committee could pursue tax reform and even create enough momentum to tackle meaningful, money-saving changes in Medicare and Social Security. That was on Aug. 4, and it all seems so long ago.

Krauthammer wasn't alone among seasoned Washington-watchers who actually saw reasons to believe in the supercommittee. My colleague John Feehery wrote this column two weeks ago exppressing great optimism that not only did House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) want a deal, but that they had hired serious people to find one and that the business community was so eager for tax reform it might even consider increased tax revenues at some point as well. Tell that to the Tea Party Republicans in Congress!

So here we are, as of this coming weekend, in October. The Congressional Budget Office wants a plan on paper by mid- or late October to be scored in time for the Nov. 23 deadline. Everyone agrees the only path to savings is tax reform, but where are the plans? As congressional leaders battle it out to draft an omnibus appropriations bill for 2012, and likely take the government back to the verge of shutdown, just how likely is it that tax reform is attempted, let alone accomplished, in the next four weeks?

Let me know if you have any idea.


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