Politico is reporting that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has tapped Sens. Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Max Baucus (D., Mont.), and John Kerry (D., Mass.) to serve on the deficit super-committee this fall. The 12-member panel, consisting of three members from each caucus, will be tasked with putting forward a plan to cut the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion (over ten years) by November 23. Any proposal the committee comes up with will need at least seven votes to be sent to Congress. Failure to reach an agreement would trigger a round of deep spending cuts (about $1.2 trillion worth), split evenly between discretionary and defense programs.
Murray, who is expected to co-chair the committee, serves in Senate leadership and is a senior member on the Senate Budget Committee. She is also currently chairing the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is certain to raise a few eyebrows. Baucus chairs the Senate Finance Committee, and served on the Bowles-Simpson deficit commission, but was the only sitting senator to vote against the commission’s final recommendations. Kerry is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Notably, none of Reid’s appointees are members of the Gang of Six, the bipartisan group of lawmakers who have spent months working on a $4 trillion deficit-reduction plan, which despite being embraced by President Obama (with questionable sincerity) and receiving a relatively warm reception in the Senate, never really got off the ground.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) have yet to announce their selections, but have until August 16 to do so.
Reid and Pelosi had been considering whether to install candidates who will draw a hard-line against deep entitlement cuts, particularly if Republicans don’t bend on new taxes. The Democratic leaders want loyalists who won’t give the panel majority support for a cuts-only approach, which could target popular programs like Medicare and Social Security.
“The number one critiera should be someone who fights for revenues and if Republicans continue to rule out revenues, then the Democrats have to play proper defense in response,” said a senior Democratic aide.
In an email sent to her colleagues Monday evening, Pelosi said her caucus was committed to “protecting” Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – and said that the new panel should deliberate in public settings so that it achieves a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction.
“Many of you have expressed your interest in serving on the Joint Committee,” Pelosi told her colleagues. “I have and will be reaching out to each of you before making any decision.”