Thursday, August 11, 2011

Super Committee Appointed for Fiscal Cuts Recommendations

The super committee is forming. Nancy Pelosi was the last to name her three choices for the committee.

On the Republican side, House Speaker John Boehner has tapped conservative darling and Republican Conference Chair Jeb Hensarling of Texas as co-chair and two powerful committee chairs, both from Michigan, to sit as members: Ways and Means' Dave Camp and Energy and Commerce's Fred Upton. Those choices mean no seat for the GOP man who has led the charge on budget reform this past year, crafting sweeping (and controversial) Medicare reform, Wisconsin's Paul Ryan.

From the Senate comes Arizona's Jon Kyl, a consistent conservative voice since his 1994 election and the chamber's second ranking Republican; Pat Toomey, the Club for Growth favorite just elected from Pennsylvania and former U.S. trade ambassador Rob Portman, freshman from Ohio. Majority leader Harry Reid tapped Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus, considered a centrist; Foreign Relations Chair and 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry; and Washington state's Patty Murray, the Senate's highest ranking woman. This is the second go-around for Baucus, who sat on the Simpson-Bowles commission but voted against the plan because of cuts to elderly and veteran programs.

One person largely missing from this cast is President Obama. While the President can veto whatever legislation Congress produces, his administration does not play a role in super committee proceedings. Since the president was widely accused of failed leadership during the debt-ceiling drama, that's probably a wise omission. It also limits the intrusion of 2012 presidential politics.

Recently, in abundant irony, President Obama called for real solutions to be brought forward by the committee, not just political lines in the sand for political gain. If anyone knows about political line drawing, it is Barack Obama.

So it’s not a lack of plans or policies that’s the problem here. It’s a lack of political will in Washington. It’s the insistence on drawing lines in the sand, a refusal to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest or party or ideology. And that’s what we need to change.

I realize that after what we just went through, there’s some skepticism that Republicans and Democrats on the so-called super committee, this joint committee that’s been set up, will be able to reach a compromise, but my hope is that Friday’s news will give us a renewed sense of urgency. I intend to present my own recommendations over the coming weeks on how we should proceed. And that committee will have this administration’s full cooperation. And I assure you, we will stay on it until we get the job done.

Obama says he will bring forward some of his own suggestions. Really? After almost three years of failing to do so? This process signed into agreement specifically excludes the President's participation. Now, all of a sudden, he wants to participate. You can't make this stuff up.

Pelosi made her choices known Thursday afternoon:

Pelosi chose Reps. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), giving the panel the highest-ranking African-American and Latino lawmakers in Congress with Clyburn and Becerra, respectively. Pelosi reiterated her call to consider “the grand bargain” of major entitlement cuts matched with increased taxes.

“We must achieve a ‘grand bargain’ that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Our entire Caucus will work closely with these three appointees toward this goal, which is the goal of the American people,” Pelosi said. “Because the work of this committee will affect all Americans, I called last week for its deliberations to be transparent; the committee should conduct its proceedings in the open.”

Pelosi trying to sound like the Queen of Transparency is laughable - considering that secret, behind closed doors was how she conducted the business of the House when she was Speaker. Nice to see Pelosi hit all the quotas,though.

Interesting mix here. Notably, Paul Ryan and Kent Conrad were not chosen. Both are leading voices with economic chops, from both sides of the aisle.

The fact that Senator Patty Murray is the co-chair and only woman is troubling. She is also the chair of the DSCC, the DNC's wing in the Senate for re-electing and recruiting Democratic candidates for office. The website is chock full of ugly partisan rhetoric.

We'll be watching.

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