Even lawmakers tossing out ideas say they are in on the charade.Jim Manley, formerly of Sen. Harry Reid's staff, tries to let them all down easily: "It’s always good to have different ideas on the table. But unfortunately, because of the tight time frame we’re dealing with, there’s not a lot of chance to rehash new ground."
“I’m one of those guilty parties,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who wants a December deal to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, obtain a Democratic promise for tax reform in the middle of next year and an extension of the debt limit and cuts to domestic spending.
Portman, one of the dozen lawmakers who served on the 2011 supercommittee that failed to reach agreement on the country’s fiscal problems, said he’s “open-minded to what goes on with the negotiations” between Obama and Republican leadership. But he defended his right — and that of his colleagues — to speak up now.
“It’s helpful to throw ideas out there and sometimes the best way to do it is to use POLITICO. Let’s be honest,” he said.
In addition to airing their plans to Politico, some are also airing their grievances that they're being ignored by their leadership.
But the high-level talks don’t exactly include open-ended invitations to rank-and-file lawmakers, let alone many of the other committee chairmen and senior members who have years of experience on issues that range from tax policy to the defense budget.But they all get their 15 minutes in Politico and hopefully in the press back home. This attention is the same impetus that has driven the interminable formation of "gangs" we've seen in the Senate, none of which have actually contributed much but hot air and lots of Village attention for being bipartisan, never mind their ineffectiveness. But at least they're getting attention somewhere.
“That always concerns me with that combination,” said outgoing Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), a chairman of a key Armed Services subcommittee and a lame-duck lawmaker who lost his bid for a Senate seat. “I’m going to leave it there. I’ve gotten in enough trouble for the year.”
The gripes are widespread. Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), the chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, told reporters that he’s been getting his updates on the fiscal cliff debate by watching Obama and Hill leaders on television.