Of all the things that have been said in the wake of the release of the Deficit Commission's "Chairman's Mark," there is probably none more dishonest than what Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said on "Good Morning America" yesterday:
"If some of us have to sacrifice a political career to get this country back on track, then so be it."
Mofeaux, please. Conrad has been twitchy over the deficits going on two years now. During that time, he could have taken it upon himself to champion any of the spending cuts or tax increases or reforms that have landed in the Chairman's Mark. He could worked the halls of Congress for co-sponsors for the Kent Conrad Pu-Pu Platter Of Deficit Whimsy Act of 2010. We could have already had debates, already taken votes. But neither he or anyone else wanted to put their political career on the line, and so Conrad poured his heart into establishing, and now supporting, a deficit commission.
And each version of this commission I've seen promoted has been designed simply as an avenue for buck-passing. When Conrad and Judd Gregg imagined this as a creation of Congress, it came with steep supermajority requirements -- fourteen out of eighteen of its members had to agree to anything to send an idea before Congress, where the now-accepted-as-the-new-normal Senate supermajority requirement loomed to capsize any idea that managed an escape from the committee table. Even still, that was too close for comfort for Gregg and Conrad's GOP co-sponsors, who bailed on the measure when the time came to stand up for it.
And reconceived as a White House creation, the deficit commission maintains all of the bad features of Conrad's vision, with an added level of remove from most Congressional lawmakers -- who'll all get to participate in the razzle-dazzle of activity that they hope will ultimately serve as an able substitute for actual achievement come the next election.
But face it, if there were truly lawmakers willing to "sacrifice [their] political careers to get this country back on track," we'd have no need to wait. Lawmakers enamored of the Chairman's Mark in toto or any portion thereof are free at any time to start advancing the ball, for God and country and budget surpluses forever. But that's not going to happen, because the truth is -- ain't a one of 'em that wants to put their name on the line that is dotted. Real talk.