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GOP announces its budget deficit 'super committee' selections

Notable omissions from the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction include the bipartisan Gang of Six. Democratic senators have also been selected, but three from the House have yet to be named.

August 10, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro, Washington Bureau
  • (Top, left to right) Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas; Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan; Rep. Fred Upton, also from Michigan; Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona; Rob Portman of Ohio; Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania. (Bottom, left to right) Sen. Patty Murray of Washington; Sen. Max Baucus of Montana; Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts
(Top, left to right) Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas; Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan;…

Reporting from Washington — Republicans announced their six appointees to the congressional "super committee" on deficit reduction, the bipartisan panel that experts give at most a 50-50 chance of agreeing on substantial budget reforms.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday appointed Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, a conservative leader, as co-chairman. He also named Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Fred Upton, also from Michigan, who is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a former budget officer in the Reagan administration.

In the Senate, GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky tapped Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the chamber's No. 2 Republican who had publicly signaled his reluctance to be considered. McConnell also chose Rob Portman of Ohio, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, and anti-tax stalwart Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the House minority leader, has yet to announce her three choices for the 12-member panel.

Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Max Baucus of Montana and John F. Kerry of Massachusetts were appointed Tuesday. Murray, who will be the co-chairwoman, is also head of the party's campaign committee.

All three Democrats are viewed as seasoned, but often partisan, deal brokers. As chairman of the Finance Committee, Baucus has a working relationship with Camp on tax issues.

Camp, Hensarling and Baucus also served on President Obama's bipartisan fiscal commission, but none of them voted for its $4-trillion deficit-reduction plan, which included new revenue, spending cuts and entitlement reforms.

Notable omissions from the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction include the bipartisan Gang of Six senators who forged a $4-trillion deficit reduction package modeled on the fiscal commission, and Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), architect of the House GOP budget. Ryan, whose budget became a political lightning rod for its proposed Medicare changes, asked not to be appointed.

Budget hawks have high expectations for Portman, who is considered a possible bipartisan bridge because of his understanding of the severity of the nation's deficit problems and the limitations of Republicans' insistence on relying on spending cuts alone.

Conservatives welcomed the appointment of Toomey, former president of the anti-tax Club for Growth. He is expected to hold a hard line on new taxes, as is Kyl.

Agreement would require bipartisan compromise, which has been unachievable of late. Republicans have refused to consider new taxes, and Democrats have resisted reductions to Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements unless more revenue is part of the equation.

The panel has until Nov. 23 to recommend $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade. If no proposal garners seven votes on the 12-member committee, or if Congress fails to approve its recommendations by year's end, automatic budget cuts would be triggered in 2013.

With the financial markets in turmoil after Congress and Obama narrowly avoided federal default, pressure for results has grown.

"It wouldn't have been the dream team I would have pulled out of my pocket, but I think we have better odds to get to an agreement," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Still, the panel faces a small window to tackle tough issues that have philosophically divided the parties for a generation. "It's not easy to see how they're going to get to yes," MacGuineas said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama expects the panel to produce.

"Every member of Congress who is elected and sent to Washington to represent his or her constituents has a responsibility to act seriously when asked to deal with such a serious issue," Carney said, "and the president expects that the appointed members of this select committee will do so, Republicans and Democrats."

Good-government groups called on Murray to step aside because of her role on the campaign committee, which will be important in a bruising battle for control of the Senate in 2012.

"Putting Senate Democrats' leading fundraiser in charge of a committee that will see a lobbying push like never before sends the wrong message to the American people," said Nick Nyhart, president of Public Campaign.

Murray is not expected to step down.

Staff writers Peter Nicholas and Michael A. Memoli in Washington contributed to this report.

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