By now the nation should have had a plan in place for drastically reducing the federal deficit. By now, we should have been picking apart this plan and criticizing members of the so-called "supercommittee" for not coming up with a better one.

Instead, we are criticizing them for offering up no plan at all.

A week ago today, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction announced that it had reached an impasse as the Thanksgiving Day deadline loomed over its directive to cut at least $1 trillion from the deficit. As a member of the bipartisan panel, U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., shares in that failure. But he's not the only one deserving blame for making this committee an exercise in futility; nor are the other 11 members of the supercommittee.

Every elected representative in Congress is responsible for the national budget and the federal deficit - and for its current sorry state. The Obama administration is just as culpable for its lack of leadership and its inability to help Congress reach a compromise.

And now, it's back to politics as usual. Regarding the supercommittee, that's not such a bad thing. In its short, three-month lifespan, the committee was plagued by special interest influence and a troublesome lack of transparency. The six Democrats and six Republicans from the U.S. House and Senate who sat on the committee wielded an unprecedented amount of power over budgets and taxes, with very little accountability for their decisions.

Their primary incentive for working together was the threat that, without a plan they could all agree on, a series of previously agreed-to automatic cuts would go into effect instead. Those cuts, which will come in the form of a sequester, add up to about $1.2 trillion over 10 years - but won't go into effect until Jan. 2, 2013.

That leaves more than a year for congressional delegates to squabble over the sequester. Already, the supercommittee's inaction has spurred more than one congressional delegate to propose alternative deficit-cutting measures in order to prevent the automatic cuts from going into effect.

In other words, there is still plenty of time for the nation's congressional delegates to hammer out a plan to put a significant dent in the deficit. Baucus, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, still has an especially important role to play in making sure this action takes place.

But all three of Montana's congressional delegates - including Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, who are already locked in a heated battle for Tester's Senate seat in the 2012 election - need to hear from their constituents. They need to hear that, election year or not, Montanans still expect them to work together on a plan to reduce the deficit.

In fact, we still expect them to work together, period.

- The Missoulian


No need to point fingers over the failure of the "supercommittee."

Blame all sides for a group that cannot even agree on a plan to offer, much less one that can secure the required votes to pass.

Now is the time to work together and Montana's representatives have the opportunity to help that to fruition.




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