Maya MacGuineas might be one of the most influential bipartisan deal-makers on Capitol Hill, but unless you’re a budget wonk, you’ve probably never heard of her.
“She’s a trusted intermediary,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said of MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
“She wants to solve the problem,” Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) added.
“She’s smart and practical, tough and charming, and if you had two or three more Maya MacGuineases, you’d have fiscal stability in this country,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said.
The 43-year-old budget specialist has worked closely with those Members and dozens more as a nonpartisan figure who helped facilitate the “gang of six” negotiations this year.
She co-hosted an off-the-record dinner at Warner’s Northern Virginia home last month featuring a bipartisan group of Members and budget experts. And earlier this month, she led a similar breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill after 100 House Members released a letter to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction urging the panel to push for a “big” deal.
As Warner said, MacGuineas’ efforts have “morphed into a semicampaign.” And she continues to stump with the vigor of a candidate.
The CRFB prominently features a “go big” page on its website, which urges members of the deficit panel to push for a deal that exceeds its $1.2 trillion statutory goal. The website includes an appeal by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.), who served as co-chairman of the White House fiscal commission that unveiled its own sweeping proposal last year, and similar pleas from business groups.
Letters from House and Senate Members who, like the gang of six, met privately for months with MacGuineas’ frequent help, are also highlighted on the site. A large group of those bipartisan lawmakers will appear at a joint press conference today to reiterate the “go big” message.
MacGuineas has paired up Democrats and Republicans to go public with their message, along the lines of Warner and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the gang of six members who made their own joint appearances to sell their deal. While she downplays her level of involvement in the bipartisan efforts on Capitol Hill, aides and Members insist she is a persistent force behind the House and Senate letters urging the deficit panel to reach a $4 trillion deal.
As the committee’s Nov. 23 deadline approaches and rank-and-file Members grow increasingly anxious about their proposal — or potential failure to produce one — MacGuineas is being called on more and more.
“I spend a lot more time with Senators than I ever used to,” the Washington, D.C., native said in a recent interview.
With the exception of a stint on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2000 presidential campaign, MacGuineas has stayed out of partisan politics. She previously worked on Wall Street and at the Brookings Institution and came to the CRFB, which is affiliated with the New America Foundation, in 2003. Since then, she has steadily built a reputation as a readily available contact for Members on budgetary issues.
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