Our Common Good


The Republican half of the Supercommittee to fix the budget has been named.

* Jeb Hensarling is a prominent right-wing Texan who has a bad habit of saying dumb things. Given the nature of this panel’s work, it’s worth noting that Hensarling has described Social Security and Medicare as “cruel ponzi schemes.” He’s the GOP pick for co-chair of the committee.

* Dave Camp is the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, and a rather generic Republican, though he does seem to believe working families don’t pay enough in taxes.

* Fred Upton was known as a relative moderate, until his party fell off the right-wing cliff, at which point he jumped, too.

* Jon Kyl is a far-right GOP leader who strongly believes Congress “should never have to offset” the cost of tax cuts, because the Tax Fairy magically ensures they pay for themselves. As part of the recent debt-reduction talks, Kyl ruled out any attempts to increase revenue and demanded $6 trillion in cuts.

* Pat Toomey is the former head of the right-wing Club for Growth. He’s talked about privatizing Social Security; blames FDR for the Great Depression; and is on record comparing moderate Republicans to communists.

* Rob Portman used to serve as George W. Bush’s budget director. No, seriously, he really did. After pleading with voters to ignore his entire record in public life, Portman was elected anyway and now Republicans want him to help shape a debt-reduction plan.

~Steve Benen

Because Rob Portman and Pat Toomey haven’t done enough damage to the country already?

Isn’t that like twice as many members as Reid got to appoint? 

The low point may have come Thursday night.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spent more than an hour meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, inching towards a deal to avert a shutdown, but he kept insisting that it include a prohibition against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

That was a non-starter for Obama. As the meeting was breaking up, Vice President Joe Biden told the speaker, in no uncertain terms, that his demand was unacceptable. If that became the deal-breaker, Biden said, he would “take it to the American people,” who would presumably punish the GOP for shutting down the government over an ideological issue.

New Republican legislation in the House and Senate would force the U.S. government to reroute huge amounts of money to China and other creditors in the event that Congress fails to raise its debt ceiling.

"I intend to introduce legislation that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised," Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wrote in a Friday Wall Street Journal op-ed.

If passed, Toomey’s plan would require the government to cut large checks to foreign countries, and major financial institutions, before paying off its obligations to Social Security beneficiaries and other citizens owed money by the Treasury — that is, if the U.S. hits its debt ceiling. Republican leaders insist they will raise the country’s debt limit before this happens. But first, they’re going to try to force Democrats to accept large spending cuts, using their control over the debt limit as leverage. That means gridlock, and the threat that they’ll come up short.

That’s where Toomey’s idea supposedly comes in. And yet, according to the Treasury Department, his plan wouldn’t actually avoid a default, or its catastrophic consequences. […]