The Super Committee & the Federal Budget

On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25), to avoid having the federal government default on its debts. The law sets limits for discretionary spending through 2021, distinguishing between defense and non-defense spending.  The law also creates a deficit reduction “super committee” that must propose at least $1.2 trillion in spending cuts.  The committee can consider any budgetary changes, including cuts to entitlement programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, cuts to discretionary programs such as those authorized by the Older Americans Act, and increases in revenue. If a deficit reduction plan is not enacted, then a “sequestration” process becomes effective that will trigger automatic, across-the-board cuts beginning in 2013 and continuing to FY 2021.  If the enacted deficit reduction plan is less than $1.2 trillion, then automatic spending cuts will be triggered to bring the total deficit reduction amount to $1.2 trillion to achieve $1.2 trillion in savings by 2021.  The automatic cuts would be equally divided between defense and nondefense spending; however, certain programs would be exempt including Social Security, Medicaid, and other low-income mandatory programs such as SNAP.  Medicare benefits would also be exempt, but fees to providers could be reduced by up to two percent. The Administration on Aging and Older Americans Act programs would be impacted by the automatic cuts. The twelve members of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction or “super committee” include:  Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) (Co-Chair), Max Baucus (D-MT), John Kerry (D-MA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Representatives Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) (Co-Chair), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), David Camp (R-MI), James Clyburn (D-SC), Fred Upton (R-MI), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).  Even if your congressional district is not represented, you should still make your voice heard regarding your concerns.  It is expected that super committee members will be communicating with their respective caucuses. The following list key dates for the special committee:

  • By October 14, 2011– Congressional Committees report any deficit reduction recommendations to the Joint Select Committee for consideration.
  • By November 23, 2011– The Joint Select Committee to propose legislation to realize at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction savings and budget cuts for FY 2012 to FY 2021.
  • By December 23, 2011 – Congress will vote on the Joint Select Committee’s legislation without amendments or filibuster.
  • By January 15, 2012 – If a bill is not enacted, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will make $1.2 trillion in across the board cuts to defense and non-defense programs over ten years. Entitlements, some low-income programs, and a few other budget items would be exempt from the triggered cuts.
  • On January 31, 2012 – The Joint Select Committee terminates.

The Consumer Voice has developed a message for constituents of super committee members to use to advocate against cuts to essential entitlements and programs.  “You can send it as is, or modify it with your own words. Personal stories and data that show how people in your state would be hurt by severe budget cuts are the most powerful message you can send!” Here are links for more information: the Center for Medicare Advocacy’s policy brief, What Does the Debt Ceiling Agreement Mean for Medicare?; a New England Journal of Medicine article, The Public’s Views about Medicare and the Budget Deficit, an article from NCOA, The Debt Ceiling Deal: The Good, the Bad, and What’s AheadBudget Control Act of 2011, and CBO’s Analysis of August 1 Budget Control Act.

CARIE Elderly Advocates logo footer


Your support helps us make a bigger difference in people's lives. Every donation you make is a gift of a better life for elders.