The Corner

McConnell Signals that ‘Super Committee’ Could Spur ‘Major’ Entitlement Reform

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) tells National Review Online that conservatives should not fear the “super committee,” a key provision of the debt-limit deal that would direct deficit-reduction policy via a bipartisan panel. He predicts that that the committee could spur “major entitlement reforms.”

“We anticipate that the joint committee will certainly deal with major entitlement reforms,” McConnell says. “That’s something we could not get out of this president without raising taxes. The reason this package is not bigger than $3 trillion is because the price of going to $4 trillion was a big tax hike. The president said, I won’t do systemic entitlement-reform changes without big taxes. That was a price we were not willing to pay.” 

Through the committee, McConnell sees an opportunity to achieve entitlement reform without ceding much ground to the president. “We have a better chance of getting that out of this joint committee and putting it on his desk than we had negotiating [the debt agreement] with him. The only role he will play after this joint committee is to sign it or veto it. The chances of him vetoing a bill that passes a Democratic Senate and Republican House to change entitlements is nil.”

“This is not another commission,” McConnell emphasizes. “This is a joint commitee of Congress. It is very powerful. We are granting to that joint committee what we typically refer to around here as a ‘base closing procedure.’ Their recommendation will have to come out before Thanksgiving and be voted on, up or down, in the House and Senate without amendments.”

Looking ahead, McConnell remains hopeful. “Remember Reagan and Tip O’Neill,” he says. “They changed Social Security, they raised the Social Security age in 1983. Reagan carried 49 out of 50 states the next year. Obviously, I am hoping that is not going to be the case with Obama, but the point I’m making is that Democrats didn’t lose the House that year and Republicans didn’t lose the White House or Senate. In other words, there was no political fallout because it was done in divided government. Divided government is actually the best time, and some would argue the only time, to do major, difficult stuff.”

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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