Posted on Oct 04, 2011
NECA Transmissions features posts from CEO John Grau and other NECA staff and leaders about industry projects or issues they are following. Today’s post comes from Lake Coulson.
Just before you were leaving town on your August vacation and much-needed family quality time, Congress passed legislation that would prevent the United States from defaulting on its credit obligations and created a 12-person House-Senate Super Committee (“Committee”) to consider additional deficit reductions. The Committee has to submit a report of its recommendations by November 23 and Congress will be limited to vote up-or-down on the plan by December 23. If Congress fails to act on the Committee’s recommendations, automatic spending cuts of $1.2 trillion will occur in domestic spending and defense.
Many believe the odds are stacked against the Super Committee agreeing on a package of spending cuts, let alone Congress concurring, without amending, the Super Committee’s recommendations.
However, if the naysayers are incorrect, and the Super Committee is effective at producing deficit reductions, it could very well change the way Washington does business and the way legislation is enacted. By design, the Super Committee possesses enormous power as it supersedes the process by which legislation normally becomes law. Legislation receives a hearing and markup in the committee of jurisdiction; however, a decent argument offers that tax and revenue legislation that has long fallen under the scope of the Ways and Means Committee now falls under the jurisdiction of the Super Committee.
While the relevant committees cannot be ignored, and thankfully, there are several tax-writers on the Super Committee, NECA, for the immediate future, must focus its advocacy on the Super Committee’s members. Legislation to repeal the 3% withholding tax, incentives for electric vehicles and associated infrastructure and energy efficient investments for building owners could all be in play before the Super Committee. NECA will need to respond with strategies to be fast, focused, and flexible, as it is now forced to advocate for beneficial provisions before a Committee with some of whom have, little, if any direct tax-writing experience or direct knowledge of the benefits created by those tax incentives.
Those arguing for greater transparency in the political process will undoubtedly lose out in this closed environment as the details of the reduction package will be restricted to the Committee’s members and House/Senate leadership. However, those seeking action in Washington may benefit from potential streamlined decision-making as the Committee’s recommendations cannot be amended or modified; members will be limited to an up-or-down vote on the recommendations.
In conclusion, one can argue that drastic times call for drastic measures. It is conceivable that if this process is successful in producing a bipartisan solution at reducing the deficit, it may well serve as a model for future budget deliberations. If this sounds like a cop out, and it probably is, it’s too soon tell whether this political model will work, but keep your calendar clear on November 23, the date when the Super Committee’s recommendations are due to Congress.