Stories by Steve Bell

Steve Bell is former Staff Director of the Senate Budget Committee, a former managing director at Salomon Brothers, and now Senior Director on Economic Policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

Gridlock Forever

January 5th, 2012 at 4:50 pm 28 Comments

Far from yielding an ambiguous electoral outcome, the Iowa caucuses solidly confirmed the Balkanization of the Republican Party, a fact that will lead to potential electoral failure in 2012 unless neutralized soon. These internal divisions hurt the party’s leadership in Congress in 2011; they have already improved Democratic chances to retain the Senate, gain substantial seats in the House, and keep the White House in 2012.

Super-imposed on this chaos is a 2012 Congressional legislative schedule that virtually no one on Capitol Hill believes has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever passing.

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Boehner is Trapped by His Caucus

December 21st, 2011 at 1:09 pm 46 Comments

An old joke heard often in the Southwest ends this way: “It isn’t always your enemies that get you into it; it isn’t always your friends who get you out of it; but, when you are in it up to your neck, keep your damned mouth shut.”

Unfortunately, Speaker John Boehner’s predicament confirms again the truism above.

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Don’t Be Fooled, Congress isn’t Working

December 15th, 2011 at 5:37 pm 15 Comments

For the seventh time this year alone, Congress appears poised to pass another continuing resolution for spending for a fiscal year that has already begun.

If any fact indicts the dysfunction of both the Executive and Legislative Branches, that fact does.

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The New Payroll Tax Strategy

December 12th, 2011 at 2:29 pm 84 Comments

House Republicans have made a bid to boldly reverse their public relations disadvantage as gridlock over the extension of the payroll tax holiday and other legislation vital to the economy continues.

For the past month or more, Republicans had been scolded as the bastion of the rich and privileged. Democrats wanted to increase taxes on the successful, using those new taxes to continue long-term unemployment insurance, a broadened payroll tax holiday, and to insure that health care providers under Medicare don’t take an overnight 27 per cent cut in payment for services.

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Government Gives Up on Basic Tasks

December 6th, 2011 at 12:00 am 39 Comments

All you really need to know about the state of Washington, D.C. are three facts:

A–a majority of Republicans in the Senate defeated a bill to extend the payroll tax holiday that was introduced by their own Senate Minority Leader last week;

B–President Obama has decided that the only real legislative item he wants passed is that very payroll tax holiday–not deficit reduction, not extension of unemployment benefits, not ending the expansion of the Alternative Minimum Tax into the middle class, not preventing a 27 per cent overnight reduction in payments to Medicare providers;

C–Congressional Democrats and Republicans, as well as the White House, still have not approved the basic appropriations bills necessary tokeep the government operating.

To extend what should be extended will cost about $200 billion plus. The President doesn’t want to run the risk as a big taxer, so he is watching as Congress wrangles, something that has been thematic about this President–talk and watch.

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And the Super Winners Are…

November 22nd, 2011 at 12:00 pm 42 Comments

“Winners and Losers” headlines abounded after the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) whimpered to an end.

One of the most interesting analyses was in The Hill, written by Bob Cusak, although we disagree with some of his picks.

Here is our analysis. “and, the winner is…the Democrats!”

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Super Failure

November 21st, 2011 at 3:32 pm 62 Comments

“Failure is not an option.”

“Well, maybe it is.”

Such sums up the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) formed last August with the task of finding $1.2-1.5 trillion in deficit savings during the next decade.

Some sort of cobbled-together semi-deal may emerge from talks Monday afternoon, but it will be far from $1.2 trillion in real savings. Worse, JSC’s abject failure leaves Congress with a 45 day period in which to address or postpone serious issues.

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$1.2 Trillion in Cuts Still Avoids Hard Choices

November 15th, 2011 at 3:30 pm 20 Comments

Gloom has descended on the work of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) as the Nov. 23 deadline for its work nears.

As JSC Co-Chair Jeb Hensarling said over the weekend, it has been a roller-coaster ride. Republicans have made offers; Democrats have made offers. Both long-term reform and short-term “kick the canister down the road” proposals have been floated and sunk almost as suddenly as they appeared. A variety of contortions using process and policies emerge and then submerge.

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On Revenues, Republicans Cross their Line in the Sand

November 9th, 2011 at 12:50 am 68 Comments

Well, what do you make of that? It just proves once again that little is new under the sun. Democrat’s message-maker and message enforcer, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, took the airwaves almost at the same time that the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) members were exchanging serious offers and counter-offers.

Schumer’s message, of course, was that the JSC would fail in its work and that failure was because Republicans just wouldn’t listen to any talk of raising taxes.

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$1.2 Trillion in Cuts is Not Enough

November 7th, 2011 at 4:07 pm 23 Comments

Everyone has an opinion on what the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC) will produce by its Nov. 23rd deadline.

Except the members and staff of the JSC itself.

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