A key point about Congress’ super-committee and ‘trigger’

I mentioned earlier this month that Congress’ budget-cutting super-committee could have a significant impact on Rhode Island depending on where the axe falls. The debt-ceiling deal that created the super-committee also included a “trigger” provision that would force huge automatic cuts if the panel can’t come to agreement.

But it turns out there’s some wiggle room in how the trigger works, which may help explain why Senator Whitehouse didn’t sound overly concerned about it when I spoke with him last week. The New York Times explains:

Under the legislation written to raise the debt ceiling this month, if the committee fails to come up with a plan by Nov. 23 to cut the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion over 10 years or if its proposals are not approved by Congress roughly a month later, the government will automatically cut spending across a vast area of its operations, including the Pentagon.

But the cuts would not be made until January 2013, nearly a year after the trigger is hit, leaving members of Congress to devise ways to avoid the fallout ….

“The trigger can get pulled,” said Josh Barro, a senior fellow and federal fiscal expert at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative research organization. “But then there is a substantial amount of time to unpull the trigger. …”

Update: The Associated Press has spoken. AP style for the panel is going to be “supercommittee” – one word. Guess I’ll change how I spell it from now on.

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