WASHINGTON — Nevada lawmakers reacted with a mixture of disappointment, resignation and some finger-pointing on Monday after the deficit supercommittee declared it had failed to come up with a plan to harness the nation’s spiraling debt.
The man behind the idea for the special deficit panel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, blamed “tea party extremists and millionaire lobbyists,” saying they placed Republicans under pressure to reject tax hikes on the wealthy that could have been a part of a “grand bargain” debt plan along with spending cuts and some changes to open-ended entitlement programs.
“The failure of the supercommittee is yet one more example of how Washington is broken and badly in need of common-sense leadership that will put partisanship aside to create jobs and cut spending,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.
Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he never did have high hopes for the group of 12 House and Senate members — divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans — who were charged with devising a plan to reduce government borrowing by at least $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years.
“I’ve said all along that a secretive group of 12 was not the answer to crippling unemployment and systemic government overspending,” Heller said. “But this was the process Congress agreed on, and I hoped they could make it work.”
Congress voted in August to create the special committee as part of a compromise that averted a federal default and raised the limit on how much money the government could borrow to keep running.
Reid, Berkley and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted for the agreement. Heller voted against it. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., was not yet in Congress.
Under the law that was enacted, the failure to come up with a debt plan now triggers automatic, across-the-board spending cuts of at least $1.2 trillion in most programs including those for defense, to take effect in January 2013.
Social Security and Medicare were made exempt from the automatic cuts, also known as “sequestration.”
Already, there is speculation that Congress might act between now and then to scale back the cuts, or avert them in some way.
Reid, for one, said he will have none of it. His comments echoed President Barack Obama’s threat to veto any attempt to roll back the automatic cuts, although he said Congress could take steps to shape them in the coming months.
“Make no mistake: We will achieve the more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction we agreed to in August,” Reid said, referring to the $900 billion in cuts enacted as part of the initial agreement as well as the $1.2 trillion that would be part of sequestration.
“The sequester was designed to be painful, and it is. But that is the commitment to fiscal responsibility that both parties made to the American people,” Reid said. “In the absence of a balanced plan that would reduce the deficit by at least as much, I will oppose any efforts to change or roll back the sequester.”
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com