Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has warned Congress that the economic recovery is close to faltering. He says there is a lot riding on the work of the 12-member "super committee" tasked with cutting the nation's debt to keep the economy from getting even worse. Matthew Cooper, editor of National Journal Daily, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey to talk about the super committee and its workings.
WAMU: What do we know about the progress of the super committee after their closed-door meetings?
Matthew Cooper: Not tons, Matt. They had a meeting this morning, and one last night. They know as well as we do where the money is -- which programs you need to cut if you're going to get to the over $1 trillion they've been charged with cutting. The problem is getting to an agreement about it.
WAMU: How likely do you think it is that they'll be able to come to some sort of understanding?
MC: My best guess is that they can get part of the way there. They've been tasked with getting to $1.2 trillion. They can get part of the way there -- and then these dreaded jaws-of-life automatic cuts that kick in.
WAMU: We have the automatic cuts that will kick in, but what will be the political consequences if they can't come together?
MC: They may be fairly minimal. The committee is supposed to come up with these cuts, but they don't take effect until 2013, which means that after the election, there's still time for a lame duck session of Congress to come up with its own set of cuts.
In other words, there's a certain theatrical aspect to this. Everybody would like to get something done, but if they don't, there's always another way to do it.
WAMU: Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner is not on the super committee, but he's been working to influence in its workings, urging it to go big on cuts. Is he likely to have any real influence on what's going on behind those closed doors?
MC: I don't think so. He's well-liked on both sides of the aisle, but people have been trying all year to come up with some sort of grand bargain. House speaker John Boehner couldn't do it, President Obama couldn't do it. I don't think Mark Warner can do it. It's been interesting to watch the local members on the scene. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) is trying to figure out how much of the deficit is really about the slow economy and how much is engrained in how we're governing.
WAMU: How are they looking in terms of the response of the voters in Virginia and Maryland to the work that they're doing on the super committee?
MC: I don't think it can hurt a member of Congress to look like they're taking this issue seriously and giving it attention, especially if they're talking about cuts in a somewhat abstract way and rather than specific programs. But at the end of the day, I don't think it's really going to drive voters.
WAMU: Other big news this week: New Jersey governor Chris Christie announced he would not run for President. What does that mean for Christie and where does it leave the Republican field?
MC: I think it's probably a good thing for Christie. You're never so liked as the day before you get in, and then the day after, it's not so fun. I think it was probably wise for him to do that. It probably would have been hard, despite all the enthusiasm, for him to get in at this late date. I'm sure he'll get mentioned next summer as a possible vice presidential candidate. And I think that it means, unless something shocking happens, that the field is set.
WAMU: When they mentioned being a vice presidential candidate, Christie said his personality didn't lend itself particularly well to being a number two.
MC: We've heard that before from other people who wound up in that spot.