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On the Economy

Henry Waxman gets mad

Rep. Henry Waxman is at wit's end with the deficit reduction Congressional supercommitte, and maybe he has a point

By Jared BernsteinGuest blogger / October 28, 2011

House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee member Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., holds up a memo on Capitol Hill in during the subcommittee's hearing on "Continuing Developments Regarding the Solyndra Loan Guarantee." Waxman is a member of the Congressional supercommittee charged with reducing the national deficit, and he has recently complained that the process is undemocratic.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

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I haven’t written much on the deliberations of the Congressional super-committee developed as part of the Budget Control Act—you remember; 6 D’s, 6 R’s tasked with coming up with another $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction.

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They’re predictably stuck on revenue issues—D’s insist that revs be part of the package, as they must, R’s are resisting. This article will bring you up to date, should you care to go there.

But aside from all the (very important) bean counting, here’s the thing that really caught me eye.

Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA]…represents those who are at wits’ end with the process.

The 36-year Washington veteran said he has “no stake” in the committee and called it an “outrageous process” that is “not open and transparent.” He said the “things put forward by Democrats … I would never vote for.”

“I find it an outrageous process, that 12 people could rewrite the laws of the United States and come up with ideas just sitting there and getting into some mood that might influence them at the moment,” Waxman said in an interview.

Waxman added, “They don’t lay out proposals for examinations. They don’t get direct input on ideas. They get a whole bunch of things from other people officially, who knows who unofficially, then they’re talking to themselves about a grand deal we won’t have a choice to discuss or amend. We’ll have to vote yes or no. That’s an offensive process.””

It’s easy to get swept up into the process of spending cuts and revenue fights—these are extremely important negotiations, and much depends on how the committee achieves the savings.

But it’s also easy to lose sight of the dysfunctionality underlying this process. Of course, Congress will vote on the committee’s recommendations, if they get that far, and the President can veto, etc. But Rep Waxman’s comments capture something fundamentally undemocratic about the process.

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