With a Friday deadline to submit formal recommendations to the super committee looming, top lawmakers on other standing Congressional panels are lobbying to protect their legislative turf.
Both publicly and privately, committee chairmen and ranking members have been approaching their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, offering general suggestions to help the panel reach its $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion deficit reduction goal. But they are also trying to steer the super committee away from slashing the budgets of agencies under the purview of their panels.
Aides close to the super committee insist that the formal submissions and recommendations from some of the Hill’s most seasoned lawmakers will be duly considered. But to date, the panel has been highly cut off from the rest of the Capitol community — left largely untouched by leadership and meeting mostly behind closed doors to conduct negotiations that few are talking about.
Members of the super committee have been tight-lipped with even their close colleagues. For instance, House Republicans said that while Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) have talked with members of their respective committees, neither has provided details of the deficit panel’s deliberations.
Moreover, the submission process has been ill-defined, according to some lawmakers, which could make the playing field for influence uneven and advantage the committees that have been more organized to date — or those who have lawmakers on the joint panel.
“I’m hearing that some committees are worried about their jurisdiction, or in other words, their turf,” said Senate Budget ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). “I’m not sure exactly how that would be impacted. You could have people worried that their committee — a decision might get made that would impact their committee, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Members are pushing.”
That’s exactly what House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) is doing. During Monday evening votes last week, McKeon stood over a seated Speaker John Boehner on the House floor, pointing his finger at the Ohio Republican’s face in a manner resembling iconic photographs of President Lyndon B. Johnson.
In an interview, McKeon said he was “setting the stage” for a Wednesday meeting with Boehner about the importance of protecting the Defense Department from automatic spending cuts that will take place if the super committee fails to reach an agreement or Congress fails to pass the deal it produces. National security spending is set to shoulder half the spending cuts that would result from failure to enact a broader deal.
“I can’t do anything to help ’em make a deal. They have to do that themselves. But I’m doing all I can to make sure everybody understands the consequences of if they do not follow through,” McKeon said.
The California Republican was busy last week. On Monday, he brought former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to speak to Members. On Tuesday, he met with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). He also recently garnered support from a key member of the Obama administration, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who “does not want to be the secretary when the military is hollowed out,” McKeon said.