Supercommittee Can’t Agree on Budget Baseline

Wednesday, 12 Oct 2011 04:45 PM

By Newsmax Wires

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One big issue for the supercommittee charged with recommending $1.25 trillion in budget deficit reduction by Nov. 23 is what baseline to use for the budget. That baseline will determine the official amount assigned to the deficit cuts recommended for the next decade by the supercommittee, The Hill reports.

The fact that the committee can’t agree on this basic, preliminary question raises questions as to whether it will be able to produce a set of proposals by the Nov. 23 deadline. If it doesn’t do so, automatic spending cuts are supposed to be invoked.

“Baselines are always an issue,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a committee member, told The Hill.

Senate and House budget committees generally decide on the baseline to be used for determining the budgetary impact of a specific bill. The committees typically use Congressional Budget Office estimates that rely on current law to determine the baseline.

But the supercommittee gets to use whatever baseline it wants. House Speaker John Boehner says the committee should use current law as its benchmark. That would prevent it from changing income tax rates, as doing so would count as a major revenue decrease, unless the committee assumed all of the tax cuts implemented by President George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003 were eliminated. And Democrats only want to wipe out tax cuts for the wealthy.

“Legislation must be scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which uses a current law baseline,” Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, said Tuesday. “As the Speaker has said repeatedly, tax hikes are a non-starter, because tax hikes destroy jobs.”

The supercommittee would be ignoring precedent if it adopts a baseline different from current law, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director who also was a senior adviser for Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, told The Hill. “I thought the default would be current law. That’s always been what CBO has scored against. For the committee to do something else would be quite dramatic,” he said.

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