Van Hollen serves as ‘alarm clock’ for super committee -- Gazette.Net


Don’t tell U.S. Rep. Christopher Van Hollen Jr. that the so-called congressional super committee is not going to be able to reach a deal before its deadline next week.

“The conversations begin as soon as people get up in the morning,” Van Hollen said. “If someone hasn’t set their alarm for 7 [a.m.], they can expect a call from me.”

Although Republicans oppose any tax increases to reduce the deficit, Democrats say a balance of increases and spending cuts are needed, said Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington.

“We’re trying to find any angle to find an agreement that is fair, that is balanced, that has to help the economy,” Van Hollen said. “There is still a chance. The jury is still out. The clock is ticking, and the next few days will be critical.”

The deadline is Wednesday for the bipartisan committee to reach an agreement to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit.

If unsuccessful, automatic cuts would take effect on January 2013, divided evenly between domestic and military programs.

The super committee was formed as part of the compromise to pass the federal budget.

Polls have shown the American public is more likely to blame Republicans than Democrats if the super committee fails to reach a deal, but politically that will mean little for either party, said Trevor Parry-Giles, a political science professor at the University of Maryland, College Park.

“On a bigger and broader national issue, it’s going to be supremely disappointing if they can’t come up with something,” he said.

At the time of the formation of the super committee, it appeared to be a smart compromise that would deal with spending and revenue issues in a nonpartisan way, much like Congress was able to do with the Base Realignment and Closure Act, he said.

“What it hasn’t done is depoliticize the process the way they wanted it to,” Parry-Giles said. “It further erodes any confidence people had in this process.”

Both sides have acted in good faith, Parry-Giles said. Republicans in the past, like Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, compromised on raising taxes, but “that Republicanism is pretty much gone,” and Republicans today see opposition to tax increases as a bedrock principle that cannot be compromised, he said.

The super committee should have focused on the role of the federal government to get the nation’s fiscal house in order rather than just let Democrats make the issue about tax revenues on the wealthy, said Richard Vatz, a professor of political rhetoric at Towson University.

“They always want to talk about tax increases with the idea that these awful rich people with their big piles of money need to pay more, but those are the ones creating new jobs,” Vatz said.

Democrats see the best way of ending the deficit as stimulating the economy to create new jobs, Van Hollen said.

Every previous bipartisan committee has said the deficit needs to be addressed with a mix of tax increases and spending cuts, he said.

Van Hollen said he was on the telephone with another member of Congress until midnight Tuesday and is ready to meet around the clock if necessary.

“Everyone is trying to strike a balance to get an agreement,” he said. “They’re trying to find the magic formula to get the job done.”