The Budget Control Act of 2011, signed into law by President Barack Obama on August 2, requires two stages of spending cuts in order to address the nation’s deficit. The first stage, outlined in the law, will reduce spending by $917 billion by implementing caps to discretionary spending for ten years. The law requires a second round of cuts totaling $1.5 trillion to be identified by the end of the year by a twelve-member bipartisan congressional committee.
Members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, better known as the Super Committee, were named by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) the week of August 8.
Democratic members include Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT), and John Kerry (D-MA); and Representatives Xavier Becerra (D-CA), James Clyburn (D-SC), and Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD). The Republican members are Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Robert Portman (R-OH), and Pat Toomey (R-PA); and Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), David Camp (R-MI), and Fred Upton (R-MI). Senator Murray and Representative Hensarling will chair the committee. The co-chairs are currently in the process of hiring a staff director to support the work of the committee as directed by the new law.
The Super Committee is charged with identifying a method to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion over a period of ten years, from 2012 to 2021. The Super Committee must hold a majority vote on its plan by November 23, 2011. If the plan is approved, it must be delivered to the President and Congress by December 2. If approved, the legislative language of the plan must be introduced in the Senate and the House the next day each chamber is in session. House and Senate committees to which the bill is referred must report out the bill by December 9 and each chamber must vote on the bill by December 23. The Super Committee ceases to exist after January 31, 2012.
If the Super Committee does not pass by a majority vote a plan that achieves at least $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, the law requires that a sequestration process begin. This sequestration process would make across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending of a minimum of $1.2 trillion goal. Across the board discretionary cuts in both security and non-security categories would begin in FY13 and continue through FY21. If the Super Committee passes a plan that achieves only part of the minimum $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction, the balance would be made up by implementing across-the-board discretionary cuts.
Regardless of whether the plan is approved, the law instructs that the plan and a record of the vote on the plan should be made public. The committee must hold a first public meeting by September 16, 2011. Standing committees of the House and Senate may provide input into the plan by making recommendations to the Super Committee prior to October 14, 2011.
NLIHC joined 40 members of the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding urging Super Committee members to protect housing programs. In the August 17 letter, CHCDF members say, “we write to you today with a simple request: we ask that your Committee only support proposals, whether to raise revenue or cut spending, that do no harm to low income Americans.”
The letter urges members to preserve discretionary funding, saying, “to achieve deficit reduction that does not further harm low-income Americans, it is essential that the Committee consider expenditures beyond nondefense discretionary spending and include significant revenue increases in any agreement endorsed by the Committee.”
With Congress in August recess, Committee members have not yet held a first meeting. While the Committee is not expected to begin by targeting additional cuts to discretionary spending, HUD funding is in danger if the Committee does not meet its deficit reduction targets and a sequestration process is implemented. Meeting these targets largely rests on the Committee’s ability to agree upon raising revenue whether by eliminating tax expenditures, closing tax loop holes, or increasing tax rates for the wealthy. Several Republican members are reportedly open to including revenues in such a plan. The success of the Committee meeting its $1.2 trillion minimum goal may rest on Republicans’ willingness to seriously address tax reform.
View the CHCDF letter at http://www.nlihc.org/doc/CHCDFJointSelectCommitteeLetter8_17_11.pdf
View the press release on the letter at http://nlihc.org/detail/article.cfm?article_id=8087&id=48