Bipartisan Policy Center floats fiscal cliff solution


In August 2011, Congress and the White House struck a deal to raise the debt ceiling that made a $1 trillion spending cut down payment and charged a supercommittee with coming up with $1.2 trillion in additional cuts. The punishment for inaction was $1.2 trillion in automatic, nearly across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending.

Because the supercommittee failed, those cuts are part of the fiscal cliff, along with hundreds of billions of dollars in tax increases that the Congressional Budget Office says will cause a recession next year. 

BPC is in the camp that says there is no time to do a $4 trillion, complicated deal in the lame-duck session. It opts instead for an unspecified “down payment” of deficit cuts. 

It then recommends an expedited process using the normal committees and a new “backstop” punishment to force the bigger grand bargain. 

“The framework we propose today would both ensure an acceleration of regular budget order in the House and Senate, and it would involve all committees of relevant jurisdiction,” BPC’s Steve Bell said in a statement.

The BPC backstop would cut entitlement spending, excluding Social Security, and tax loopholes equally if regular committees failed to agree on a solution.

To facilitate an agreement, the deficit package would be subject to fast-track, simple majority votes to prevent a Senate filibuster. 

On the whole, the BPC ideas resemble a framework being discussed by the Senate Gang of Eight, which has discussed making something resembling the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan the backstop.

The thorny issue of what to do with the Bush-era tax rates has bedeviled the Gang discussions as much as it has presented a roadblock for a White House deal with congressional leadership.

BPC comes down on the side of extending all the rates, taking the Republican position. But the fact that the backstop includes a 1-1 ratio of tax increases and spending cuts is something liberals would likely embrace.