The Madeleine Brand Show for November 11, 2011

Rep. Becerra on supercommittee: "I'm an eternal optimist"

Deficit Super Committee Holds Open Hearing

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The deficit super committee holds an open hearing on October 26.

Los Angeles Democratic Congressman Xavier Becerra returns to the program to explain the current state of negotiations in Congress' so-called 'super committee.' The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is charged with finding $1.2 trillion in planned budget savings during a 10 year period.

Becerra is one of 12 members on the committee and plays a central role in the negotiations. The committee's recommendation is due by Nov. 23, and the full Congress is set to vote on the proposal by Dec. 23.

While there are elements of the budget that both parties agree on, Becerra has concern that reaching the full deal may be challenging.

"It's more a matter of trying to fulfill our statutory obligations of getting to at least $1.2 trillion in savings," he said.

If the committee fails, $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts will be triggered. Becerra doesn't expect that will happen.

"One way or another we're going to extract savings," he said. A large chunk of the automatic cuts – $500 billion – would come from the military's budget.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had strong words about what the damage of potential cutbacks would do to the military.

"It's a paper tiger, an army of barracks, buildings and bombs without enough trained soldiers able to accomplish the mission. It's a force that suffers low, low, morale, poor readiness and is unable to keep up with potential adversaries. In effect, it invites aggression," he said.

Becerra believes "a balanced solution" will get through Congress. For him, this includes not cutting "essential services and programs" and repealing the 2001 Bush tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.

Becerra understands the challenges to his proposal.

"Often times it's tough for some folks to leave their pledges and commitments behind. For Republicans, it's tough for them to try to escape the grips of folks like Grover Norquist and others who have kept their feet to the fire on this pledge to never raise taxes even on the wealthy," he said.

Norquist is President of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington based lobbying group that advocates for lower taxes.

"It's up to [the committee] to put aside our egos and hang those special interests pledges at the door as we walk in to negotiate," Becerra said.

Guest:

Rep. Xavier Becerra, Democrat representing the 31st Congressional District of California, which includes parts of central and northeast Los Angeles.

Follow him on Twitter.


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