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A Massive Domino Effect Could Await Super Committee's Failure

Consider the impact -- the Super Committee co-chairs still have not agreed on a way to put this whole debt reduction effort out of its misery (and that's the expectation now: failure). But the ramifications of failure so far have largely gone unnoticed.

The thinking now seems to be to announce something after the markets close Monday, even though the markets don't seem to care and have already absorbed this failure.

But here at the end of the congressional session, Congress has only approved three of 13 annual spending bills. They'll be focused on that even moreso now, especially given that the current continuing resolution that keeps government running expires on Dec. 16.

Congress is also going to need to deal with extending the expiring payroll tax holiday that was in the original stimulus bill. It will need to renew expiring unemployment insurance benefits, though some conservative Republicans have called for reforming that system first.

It will need to stop the doctors receiving Medicare payments from being hit with a whopping cut  -- something on the order of 25 percent -- to their federal government reimbursement payments. (This is the annual "doctor fix" fight.)

As well, Congress will need to "patch" the Alternative Minimum Tax, so middle class taxpayers aren't swallowed up by it.

And if that weren't a long enough list, Congress must also deal with a host of other tax breaks that need to be extended (research and development and other items critical to businesses). This is the so-called "tax extenders" fight that happens each year.

Here's the clincher -- since the Super Committee's debt deal bill was supposed to be the legislative vehicle for all of this -- uh, what now?

Technically, Congress cannot legislate on appropriations bills, but high vote hurdles could be overcome to do this. If enough members want to block something, they stand a better chance here.

Lawmakers could turn to a defense policy bill -- called the defense authorization bill that's currently on the Senate floor -- to deal with some of the backup, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can't afford to spend much time on that bill.

Add to that the lawmakers who insist on finding offsets for all this. Though many inside and outside the Super Committee, namely Republicans, were willing to go along with using a war account called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO -- called "oko" like Yoko) -- money from winding down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, they'll be less willing to do so now. Republicans and some Democrats generally refer to that kind of budget savings as "gimmicks."

With about one month to go on the legislative calendar, the Super Committee's failure is an even bigger deal than it would seem on its face.

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