Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Fact-checking the "Supercommittee" hearing

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas (left) co-chairs the so-called Supercommittee that's charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving. His co-chair is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. (right).
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas (left) co-chairs the so-called Supercommittee that's charged with finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving. His co-chair is Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. (right).

In a task that might be harder than leaping tall buildings in a single bound, the congressional "Supercommittee" must find $1.5 trillion in deficit reductions by Thanksgiving.

The panel, formally known as the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, was created as part of a deal enacted in August that raised the nation’s debt ceiling. The committee of six Senators and six House Members -- equally divided by party affiliation -- is chaired by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

The committee must find the required cuts, or if they don’t, then across-the-board cuts will be implemented for most types of federal spending, including defense.

The panel held a public hearing on Oct. 26, 2011, and we decided to check one of the claims made during the session.

In an exchange with Congressional Budget Office director Douglas Elmendorf, Hensarling offered budgetary statistics designed to show massive spending increases by federal agencies in recent years.

"When you add in the stimulus, the Commerce Department has grown 219 percent from '08 to '10, that with the stimulus, EPA has grown 130.8 percent. The Energy Department has grown 170.7 percent with the stimulus. Education has grown 180.6 percent," he said.

We checked Hensarling’s numbers and found that while stimulus did expand spending by those departments’, the rate of increase was much lower. On balance, we rated the statement False.