Tennessee and Georgia lawmakers bash the not-so-"supercommittee"

Tennessee and Georgia lawmakers bash the not-so-"supercommittee"

November 23rd, 2011 by Chris Carroll in Local Regional News

Supercommittee member, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., fends off reporters as he arrives to meet in the Capitol Hill office of Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., with other Supercommittee members as time for action by the deficit reduction panel grows short, Monday Nov. 21, 2011, of Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

POLL: Are you surprised about the debt supercommittee's collapse?

Republican legislators from Tennessee and Georgia wasted no time bashing the not-so-"supercommittee" Monday, directing about as much anger toward the panel as Americans are directing toward Congress itself.

"It is nothing short of an embarrassment, an absolute national disgrace and failure of leadership that we cannot agree on even a paltry $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction," said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

The 12-member bipartisan committee was charged with reducing the federal deficit as part of August's debt-ceiling deal in Congress. The committee's failure sets up a yearlong fight to determine which government programs should be included within $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts scheduled to take effect in January 2013.

While no local legislators worked on the supercommittee, some have made deficit reduction the cornerstone of their legislative careers. Corker has held more than 60 presentations on America's debt situation within the last year, while Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., led a separate bipartisan deficit-cutting committee called the Gang of Six.

A Chambliss staffer said the senator was in Afghanistan to celebrate Thanksgiving with troops, but his Georgia colleague unleashed enough anger to fill the void.

"I am very disappointed that the joint committee failed to come up with the $1.2 trillion in cuts," said Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. "Failure on the behalf of Congress should not have been an option."

Other local legislators complained about the whole concept of the supercommittee, which held private meetings and did not appear to include the ideas of some members of Congress.

"Spending cuts need to be debated in the light of the House floor - not by a select group of individuals behind closed doors," said U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.

Congress has a record-low 9 percent approval rating, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll released in late October. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., appealed to that outrage.

"Americans are seeking men and women of courage who are willing to be champions for the taxpayer," Graves said. "This is their time to stand."

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said "this is a failure of governing not of money - the debt will be cut by another $1.2 trillion, but it will be done the wrong way."

President Barack Obama promised to veto any legislation that seeks to prevent automatic cuts to military and domestic programs.

"There will be no easy off ramps on this one," Obama told the New York Times.

In one sentence, U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., summed up Washington's bad mood.

"Our country deserves better," he said.

Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at ccarroll@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6610.