Tuesday, October 25, 2011

US Politics: More than 200 companies and interest groups are lobbying the committee tasked with reducing the U.S. deficit.

Courtesy of Newsy


The congressional super committee, made up of 12 lawmakers from both sides of the aisle, is faced with some big numbers. A1.2 trillion dollar deficit to reduce, billions of dollars of defense and domestic spending on the line, and, now, Politico reports, more than 200 lobbyists fighting for an audience with the committee’s members.

“It’s a stunning ratio of lobbyists to lawmakers but makes sense when you consider the high stakes faced by interests ranging from the health care industry to Native American tribes. The groups fear the supercommittee will find $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction before Thanksgiving by cutting their funding or raising their taxes.”

The Los Angeles Times reports the oil and airline industries, especially, are leading the lobbyist charge and bypassing the super committee’s website, the format the committee opened for feedback.

“Not all submissions ... go through the official channels. Lobbyists are in frequent contact with super-committee members and their staffs, a practice that open-government advocates bemoan as special access. The American Petroleum Institute, which is fighting Democratic-led efforts to close a tax loophole for oil companies, prefers personal contact and declined to submit a formal recommendation to the committee.”

Despite the swarm of lobbyists surrounding super committee members, Bloomberg analysts say it’s difficult to tell how much sway those lobbyists hold.

“There are over 200 different companies in there lobbying, trying to get a voice in these conversations. Is there any proof that they’ve had an impact?”
“Hard to say... maybe at the margins. But the super committee just a week ago finished getting all the recommendations, so at least now they can sift through everything they’ve been given. But I don’t think the lobbyists have made that big a difference.”

But some legislators, including Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, are concerned that a lack of transparency from the super committee -- which has remained notoriously tight-lipped on its discussions -- could allow room for lobbyist influence.

FOX News has his comments.

“Even when I go talk to a member of the committee, they’re saying we’re making progress. You cannot get any information, unless, unless you go and talk to a lobbyist. If I go talk to a lobbyist, I can figure out what the super committee’s doing. But I can’t go to a member of the super committee and get the details like I can get from a lobbyist. I think that’s wrong.”

Still, CNN reports there is a case being made for the super committee to continue its media blackout policy.

KATE BALDWIN: “Jim Manley, a former top aide to Senate majority leader Harry Reid says getting behind closed doors may be the only way to get anything done. Look no further than this debt ceiling fiasco.”

JIM MANLEY: “A page immediately ran out and gave a blow-by-blow description almost in real time to reporters. I don’t think that was helpful for the process.”

Behind closed doors or not, Politico reports that if the super committee fails to reach common ground on a proposal by November 23, the debt ceiling bill reached this summer will trigger heavy-handed 9-percent cuts in both defense and domestic spending.