‘Super’ Committee Members Selected

August 16, 2011

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) each named three members of their respective caucuses to serve on the the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, or so-called “super committee.”

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction was created under the recently passed debt-limit deal, and is tasked with finding at least $1.2 trillion in additional deficit-reduction measures over 10 years.

The panel will have until Nov. 23 to draft a proposal, and will need at least seven of the 12 lawmakers to vote on a final proposal by Thanksgiving in order to fast track it (an up-or down vote) through both chambers and send it to President Barack Obama by Dec. 23.

If the committee deadlocks—Republicans and Democrats remain split on party lines, and no proposal is ever actually proposed—then $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board cuts will be triggered and evenly divided for both defense and non-defense (discretionary) spending. It is a solution neither party wants, but the tough politics of spending cuts and possible tax increases could make that outcome more likely than not.

The committee will be co-chaired by the top Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas). The 12 members—six Democrats and six Republicans—have a range of political experience—from novice to veterans, and are experts in taxes and the budget process, and hail from states as disparate as Texas, Michigan and Arizona.

Murry has already been met with some scrutiny, since she also chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for the 2012 election cycle and is tasked with recruiting candidates who can beat her Republican colleagues. However, she was chosen because she is the highest-ranking woman in the Senate, has been a member of leadership for fours years, is next in line to the Budget Committee chairmanship and also currently serves on the Appropriations Committee.

The other two Senate Democrats are Max Baucus (Mont.) and John Kerry (Mass.). Former Presidential Candidate, Kerry is best known for his foreign policy experience as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and his past leadership on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. He will lend his expertise on national security matters to the debate over cuts to military funding. He also is a member of the Finance Committee and has spent 27 years in the Senate. Baucus serves as chairman of the Finance Committee as well as served on the White House deficit-reduction commission last year co-chaired by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), and former White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, eventually voting against its recommendations because it would have changed Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in a way he found unacceptable.

The Senate Republicans on the committee chosen by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) include Sens. Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio). Kyl’s appointment comes as no surprise, as he is the Senate Minority Whip, serves on the Finance Committee and represented the republicans in the deficit talks led by Vice President Joe Biden this past spring, but eventually left the talks after an impasse over increasing revenue. Elected to the Senate last year, Toomey sits on the Budget and Banking Committees, voted against the debt ceiling bill that created the “super” committee and is the former president of the staunchly anti-tax Club for Growth. Portman served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, is a member of the Budget Committee, and has a reputation for being very well-informed on budgetary issues.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) selected Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Dave Camp (Mich), and Fred Upton (Mich.). Hensarling—the Republican Conference Chairman—served on the President’s debit commission but voted against it because of tax increases. Camp is chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, and also played a role in the President’s debt commission but ultimately voted against it because he objected to the plan’s tax hikes and because it failed to address rising health care costs. Upton ascended to the chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2011, and is considered a moderate voice in his party.

Finally, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) appointed Reps. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), Jim Clyburn (S.C.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.). Van Hollen is the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee and Clyburn—the highest ranking African American member of the House—is the assistant Democratic leader. Both men had served as Pelosi’s choices for spots on the budget working group this year headed by Vice President Joe Biden. Becerra, the highest ranking Latino lawmaker in the House, is the Democratic Caucus’ Vice Chairman and a member of the Ways and Means Committee. He served on the White House deficit-reduction commission last year, eventually voting against its recommendations because he felt it cut too deeply into discretionary spending and did not raise revenues to a high enough level.