Supercommittee Death Watch: The Supra-Supercommittee, a.k.a. The Gang of 6.1

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 1 2011 4:52 PM

Supercommittee Death Watch: The Supra-Supercommittee, a.k.a. The Gang of 6.1

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., made a comment at today's National Journal election preview that was notable for how it wasn't news. The issue of possible doomsday sequestration -- mandatory cuts -- came up.

"No one believes the supercommittee is going to be able to do anything,"

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No one? That doesn't mean that the supercommittee will come up with bupkis. It means that Mulvaney, a Tea Party freshman (with experience in the South Carolina legislature, mind you), knows that he and the rest of the House GOP will shred anything that raises taxes. With this in mind I introduce the Supercommittee Death Watch: A catalogue of news items that point to an unworkable ending to this whole drama. If we're all lucky, the name will become an ironic joke, and the committee will work like magic. It might not, though.

Item one: This treble-bylined Reuters story on how there's an effort to save the supercommittee from inside the supercommittee itself! Meet the supra-supercommittee, a justice league of three Democrats and three Republicans who had dinner last Wednesday and want to maybe do something.

Significantly, at least two Republican members of the smaller group are willing to consider revenue increases as part of a deficit-reduction plan, one of the congressional aides and a source with direct knowledge of the talks said... The six lawmakers, who began meeting only recently, include: Republicans Rob Portman, Dave Camp and Fred Upton; and Democrats John Kerry, Max Baucus and Chris Van Hollen, two congressional aides said.

The significance: Well, uh, John Kerry has publically been talking about the benefits of a "grand bargain," a package of tax hikes and cuts that could go up to $4 billion, and here he's talking about a smaller deal. We know Portman is open to tax hikes. We know that Camp wants to close loopholes as a way of cutting the corporate tax rate. The Gang of 6.1 lets this get worked out over Chinese food before some debut before the November 23 deadline. So: A reason for optimism! The reason for pessimism: That's an awful lot of brinksmanship to sell something to inconsolable Republicans. Does it win them over, when they're already attacking the supercommittee on the grounds of secrecy?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.