Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has tapped three senior Democrats, including the chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, for the new Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction charged with eliminating at least $1.2 trillion in red ink over the next decade.
Reid picked Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who heads the DSCC, as co-chairwoman of the committee. He also selected Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (Mass.).
“The Joint Select Committee has been charged with forging the balanced, bipartisan approach to deficit reduction that the American people, the markets and rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s are demanding,” Reid said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “To achieve that goal, I have appointed three senators who each possess an expertise in budget matters, a commitment to a balanced approach and a track record of forging bipartisan consensus.”
Reid cited Murray’s experience on both the Budget and Appropriations panels and said all three Senators have shown an ability to work across party lines.
Baucus participated earlier this year in the debt talks led by Vice President Joseph Biden. He also served last year on the president’s bipartisan fiscal commission but voted against the compromise package authored by that panel’s chairmen, former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Reid did not include any of the Democrats who participated in the “gang of six” — Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Sen. Mark Warner (Va.) — who had based their $3.7 trillion proposal on that commission’s final report.
That plan has not been endorsed by either Reid or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), although dozens of other Senators have said they support it.
McConnell has yet to name his picks for the new panel but said last week he would do so very soon.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also have yet to name their picks. Boehner will choose the other co-chairman.
“You can be confident the people I select to represent our Conference will be people of courage who understand the gravity of this situation and are committed to doing what needs to be done,” Boehner said during a conference call with lawmakers Tuesday. “The Majority Leader and I are committed to a regular order process, as outlined in the law, so that all Members and committees will have input as this joint committee does its work. And from the conversations I’ve had with the other leaders of both parties, I can tell you there’s a strong commitment to having open hearings and a public process.”
House Republicans’ panel picks might prove the most important. Several attempts at reaching a “grand bargain” on the deficit have blown up over the House GOP’s consistent opposition to tax increases. Reid last week warned that the committee would not produce a bill unless Republicans agreed to increase revenue.
Failing to reach a deal would trigger an automatic $1.2 trillion cut in defense, Medicare and other programs starting Jan. 1, 2013.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., carries a musket on stage as he speaks during the American Conservative Union's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Md., on Thursday March 6, 2014.