Super-committee members from both parties are now embracing using savings from withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan in any plan they can devise by next week to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over 10 years.
The idea had been derided by Republicans as a gimmick early on in deliberations by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.
But the prospect has grown more tempting as panel members scramble to avoid missing next week’s Nov. 23 deadline for coming up with a deficit plan and try to avoid triggering automatic budget cuts. The White House has said more than $1 trillion will be saved from the drawdown of troops, a computation that relies on a Congressional Budget Office assumption that war spending stays at the temporary levels of last year for the next 10 years.
With the super committee’s clock ticking, the inclusion of so-called war “drawdown” amounts from the Overseas Contingency Operations fund is now being routinely included in various proposals offered and traded by members of both parties on the 12-member panel. The committee’s members were continuing to work on Monday, trying to reach some agreement.
One tentative framework floated over the weekend by the Democratic cochair of the committee, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, is a reduction plan that would total just under $1.5 trillion, according to sources with knowledge of the committee’s activities. As with previous offers, the plan would use an unspecified amount of OCO savings to pay for expensive fixes to the alternative minimum tax, and a formula for Medicare reimbursements – the so-called “doc fix” - as well as infrastructure spending.
Other specifics of Murray's offer are in dispute – though some accounts say it includes $400 billion in new tax revenue, about $400 billion in discretionary cuts, and $225 billion in cuts to Medicare providers. Others say numbers have been fluid – and it is not accurate to say any formal proposal specifying these amounts has been made.
At least one Republican plan has incorporated using as much as $700 billion of OCO savings to pay for the AMT patch and other items, according to sources with knowledge of the committee’s activities.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., refused to discuss the super committee on Monday.
Cantor said the only comment he would have was that he “remained hopeful that they would come to an agreement.”