As the 12 members of the Joint Committee for Deficit Reduction begin another week of secret meetings, rumors abound regarding the progress or lack of progress being made towards reaching the basic goal of $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next 10 years. As the clock ticks towards the panel’s November deadline, aides to members on the panel have reportedly indicated the goal is to broker a deal before October’s end to allow time for scoring and other review. While it was clear from the start that the timeline set for the Committee was going to be tough to meet, some have started to question the timeline and implying that this can be blamed for the lack of public insight to the work of the Committee.
While an open government is always the best approach, the work of the super committee may be the exception. It became clear from the Committee’s initial round of public hearings that those called before the panel to give testimony and put forth opinions were not going to put aside politics and special interest concerns and do what is best for our Nation. This view was reinforced last week as congressional leaders and committee members of both parties submitted recommendations for cuts to the super committee, that for the most part, represent partisan views and protect one group or another. Views that we have seen time and again over the last few years. Views that have lead to grid lock throughout Congress and much of the federal government. Views that if accepted by the Committee’s members would not produce results.
By closing the doors, keeping out of the meetings all but select few staff members and agreeing not to publicly comment on the negotiations, Members of the Committee have allowed themselves the opportunity to address the tough questions without being pushed and pulled in all directions. They are forcing themselves to depend on their own knowledge and understanding of our nation’s deficit problem. These Members were appointed to the Committee because Congressional leadership believed that individually they have the knowledge and experience it will take to seek out the solutions needed, at what all agree is one of the most difficult times faced by our country. They accepted the appointment because they are willing to do the work.
The most important question that remains is are they up to the challenge and will they do their duty? While duty has many definitions, one is simple – doing what ought to be done, when it should be done, without being told to do so, and with a spirit of service. It is fair to believe that by focusing on the task at hand and yes, going behind closed doors to work, the super committee has given itself a real opportunity. An opportunity to do what is right for our country, to do it now, to do it without undue outside influence and to do because it is their duty.