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Message Subject THE ECONOMY & YOU # (Daily Updated Videos & Articles)
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US Budget Panel Fails to Reach Deficit-Cutting Agreement
by Patrick Martin
21-11-2011

Members of a bipartisan congressional committee admitted Sunday that they had failed to reach any agreement on cutting $1.2 trillion over ten years from projected US government deficits. More than half the panel’s members appeared on network television interview programs Sunday to bemoan the breakdown of the effort, one day before the actual Monday deadline.

Under the procedure established in August as part of the agreement that ended the crisis over raising the federal debt ceiling, the 12-member committee, six senators and six congressmen, divided equally between the two big business parties, has until Wednesday, November 23 to deliver a deficit reduction proposal to Congress. Because the Congressional Budget Office must “score” the proposal to confirm that it meets the $1.2 trillion target, a process that requires 48 hours, the effective deadline is Monday.

If the panel had met the deadline, both the House and Senate would have been required to give an up-or-down vote, without any filibusters, amendments or procedural delays, by December 23. Failing to meet the deadline forecloses the use of these expedited procedures.

This sets into motion the second stage of the deficit-reduction process agreed on last August—an automatic “trigger” to cut spending. An across-the-board cut in federal spending of the required amount, $1.2 trillion over ten years, is to take effect in January 2013, divided equally between military and domestic social spending. According to an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, Medicare reimbursements to providers would fall by 2 percent, other domestic programs by 7.8 percent, and military spending by about 10 percent.

Senators and congressmen of both parties immediately declared their opposition to the military cuts and said they would propose measures to shift the burden of the automatic cuts to other areas of the budget, particularly entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, which are largely exempted under the “trigger” procedure.

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