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Tax counsel to lead staff of deficit 'super committee'

August 30, 2011|By Lisa Mascaro | Washington Bureau
  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), co-chairs of the deficit "super committee," on Tuesday announced the selection of Mark Prater as staff director for the panel.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), co-chairs… (Associated Press )

A veteran Senate Finance Committee GOP staffer has been named to the top spot on the bipartisan congressional "super committee" on deficit reduction, which is beginning to take shape with just 12 weeks to accomplish its ambitious budget-cutting goals.

Every step of the creation of the 12-member panel is a political minefield in this hyper-partisan congressional era. The committee co-chairs agreed on Mark Prater as staff director for the panel, which has been given enormous power to recommend at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving.

The selection of Prater, a tax counsel, reflects the importance of the divisive issue of tax policy in the coming debate. Past deficit-cutting exercises have deadlocked as Republicans have been unwilling to agree to new taxes to help reduce deficits, and Democrats have resisted cuts to Medicare and other entitlement programs without new revenues.

"The know-how and experience Mark brings to this difficult task is exactly what we agreed must be the top priority for the staff serving all the members of this Committee," the committee co-chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), said in a joint statement.

"Mark has a well-earned reputation for being a workhorse who members of both parties have relied on. We look forward to working with him and are confident that his approach and expertise will be valuable as we weigh the difficult but necessary choices ahead."

Committee members have been scrambling during the congressional recess to form the panel, which must hold its first meeting by Sept. 16.

The task before the committee is a difficult one, and many in Washington do not expect a majority on the panel to agree on recommendations.

Prater is currently the deputy staff director for the Senate Finance Committee, and its chief tax counsel. He has worked on the committee for more than 20 years, involved in key policy debates on healthcare and tax policy. As the super committee staff director, Prater will lead the panel's day-to-day operations.

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