‘Line’ Items: Fall Back Edition

It’s About Time – If you arrived to work an hour early today then you forgot to set your clock back this weekend. The opportunity to “fall back” and gain an extra hour of time is something that busy Americans can appreciate. If only it were so simple to move the debt clock back. What would we do if we could shave a trillion dollars off the national debt? Would we do anything different, or would we remain in our sleepy daze, like most of us did with that extra hour? With less than three weeks until its deadline, the Super Committee needs all the extra time it can get. Now that daylight savings time has ended, will the time for budget savings begin in earnest? Will the political parties fall back farther into their partisan trenches, or will we move forward towards solutions?

Super Committee Urged to Spring Forward – As the clock ticks on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to make its recommendations, it received urging from different quarters to move forward last week. At a public hearing the panel was pressed by the co-chairs of the two major bipartisan deficit commissions to come to an agreement. Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici of the Debt Reduction Task Force warned of dire consequences if the committee failed to produce solid recommendations. At the end of the hearing, Bowles presented the outline of a potential compromise that could produce deficit savings of $3.9 trillion over the next decade. The next day, 100 members of the House of Representatives signed a letter to the Super Committee calling for a ‘Go Big’ approach that puts everything on the table. CRFB’s co-chairs also got into the act with an op-ed in Politico advising the Super Committee to “go big, long, and smart.”

Appropriations Better Late than Never – Overshadowed by the Super Committee, the FY 2012 appropriations process has finally started to move, more than one month into the fiscal year. A minibus containing the Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bills passed the Senate last week and the final version is being hammered out by a House-Senate conference committee that hopes to wrap it up this week. Another minibus is set to motor on this week combining the Financial Services, Energy-Water, and State-Foreign Operations bills. In addition to the Super Committee’s November 23 deadline, Congress faces another major budget deadline as the current continuing resolution (CR) funding federal government operations expires on November 18. Another CR is likely. Have we mentioned the need for budget process reform lately?

Balanced Budget Amendment’s Time Coming – Also lost among the Super Committee debate is the fact that the Budget Control Act requires a vote in each chamber of Congress on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution by the end of the year. House leaders have indicated they will hold a vote the week of November 14. The Senate has not signaled when it will vote. There are lots of different versions to choose from. No matter what version gets a vote, it is not likely to get the 2/3 majority needed from each chamber to move forward to the states, where 3/4 of them would need to ratify it.

Fiscal Policy Gets Time on the Campaign Trail – GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney gave a speech on fiscal policy on Friday in which he outlined some budget cuts he would make. There will be more fiscal talk on Wednesday as the candidates face off in a debate on economic, tax, and national debt issues in Michigan.

Soldiering on with Budget Cuts at Pentagon – The New York Times looks at the task facing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as he seeks to cut at least $450 billion from the Pentagon budget. Panetta Tells the Times that another round of base closings might be required, as well as reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal, force reductions in Europe, and cutting the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. He also says he might create a commission to review military compensation. Panetta also says that the $500 billion in defense cuts triggered if the Super Committee fails to act could be disastrous.

Key Upcoming Dates (all times ET)

November 9

  • GOP presidential debate in Rochester, MI sponsored by CNBC exclusively on the nation's economic challenges including the national debt, jobs, and taxes at 8 pm.

November 10

  • Treasury Department releases federal budget data for October at 2 pm.

November 12

  • GOP presidential debate in Spartanburg, SC sponsored by CBS News and the National Journal at 8 pm.

November 15

  • GOP presidential debate in Washington, DC sponsored by CNN, the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute at 8 pm.

November 18

  • Continuing resolution (CR) currently funding federal government operations expires.

November 23

  • The Super Committee is required to vote on a report and legislative language recommending deficit reduction policies by this date.

December 1

  • GOP presidential debate in Arizona sponsored by CNN at 8 pm.

December 2

  • The Super Committee report and legislative language must be transmitted to the President and Congressional leaders by this date.

December 9

  • Any Congressional committee that gets a referral of the Super Committee bill must report the bill out with any recommendation, but no amendments, by this date.

December 10

  • GOP presidential debate in Des Moines, IA sponsored by ABC News at 9 pm.

December 15

  • GOP presidential debate in Sioux City, IA sponsored by Fox News at 9 pm.

December 19

  • GOP presidential debate in Johnston, IA sponsored by PBS NewsHour, Google and YouTube at 4 pm.

December 23

  • Congress must vote on the bill recommended by the Super Committee by this date. No amendments are allowed.

December 31

  • Both houses of Congress must vote on a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as required by the Budget Control Act.

January 3, 2012

  • Iowa Caucuses.

January 10, 2012

  • New Hampshire Primary.

January 21, 2012

  • South Carolina Primary.

January 31, 2012

  • Florida Primary.