Monday, August 1, 2011

White House Conference Call: From the Horse's Mouth

I just got off a Connecticut conference call explaining the debt deal and I thought it was somewhat helpful, so here's what I took away:

First, there is a $1 trillion "downpayment" on spending cuts -- $350 billion are defense and $650 billion phased in over 10 years is domestic discretionary spending -- NOT including Medicaid, Medicare, Pell grants, Social Security.

Second, a super-committee of 12 members (3 House Dems, 3 House GOP, 3 Senate Dems, 3 Senate GOP) selected by caucus leadership (Nancy Pelosi, Speaker Boehner, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell, respectively) that will be charged with finding $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction, which may (according to the White House will) be achieved through tax reform. & of the 12 committee members must agree on a plan by November 23, with the bill passed into law by around Christmas. This bill will be fast-tracked, so no filibuster, no amendments.

If the super-committee fails to report out something that will pass, enforcement will kick in on January 1, 2013 -- the same date on which the Bush tax cuts expire. The enforcement action will be $500 billion in defense cuts and $500 billion in domestic discretionary spending phased in over 10 years -- NOT including Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare beneficiary cuts (but will include a 2% provider cut), food stamps, PELL grants, LIHEAP, TANF, SCHIP and a few others I couldn't write down quickly enough.

I asked two questions: (1) is a Balanced Budget Amendment part of this deal? No, I was told. (2) what gives us reason to believe that tax reform will be considered by the super-committee? The answer is pretty clever -- the Bush tax cuts will expire if the committee does nothing (assuming President Obama is re-elected). That gives the GOP members of the super-committee an incentive to come up with alternative tax reforms that go into the savings column.

It was stressed that the cuts are phased in over 10 years. So those of us who are concerned about pulling the rug out from under a weak economy have to keep in mind that these cuts are not happening today or even tomorrow.

It seems to me that the Dems did a better job than is being reported on preserving the social safety net. And although Advocacy for Patients does not endorse any candidates for public office, there is no question that this plays out very differently if President Obama is not re-elected. For some of you, that's enough reason to vote against him, I'm sure.

That's what I got from the call. I'll update you on press accounts in the morning. Jennifer

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