Republican leaders named their picks Wednesday to the powerful new Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, with Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) naming Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas) as co-chairman of the committee.
Boehner passed over Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), who has become the face of the party’s fiscal policy, naming Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) and Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.) to serve on the panel with Hensarling. Ryan said in a statement that he asked Boehner not to consider him for the post so that he can concentrate on reforming the budget process.
“This past year has shown that the federal budget process is more broken than ever and needs to be reformed,” Ryan said.
On the Senate side, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) tapped Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and freshman Sens. Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Rob Portman (Ohio).
Toomey is a former head of the Club for Growth who authored a budget plan backed by most Senate Republicans that would balance the budget within a decade. Portman is a former White House budget director under President George W. Bush and has more credibility on fiscal issues than most freshmen.
Ryan’s absence is remarkable given his status as a lightning rod for both parties and his considerable expertise and respect on budget matters.
Hensarling and Camp, meanwhile, served with Ryan on the Bowles-Simpson fiscal commission last year, and all voted against the chairmen’s recommended $4 trillion deficit reduction plan.
Kyl served earlier this year as the Senate Republican representative in debt negotiations led by Vice President Joseph Biden.
The GOP picks join Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) choices: Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) as co-chairwoman, Finance Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) and Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (Mass.).
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has yet to name her picks, but Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) and Assisstant Minority Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), who represented the Caucus in the Biden talks, could get the nod again.
Also of note, no Members from either party who crafted the bipartisan "gang of six" plan in the Senate made the cut, even though that plan has the support of dozens of Senators. Portman has had nice things to say about the group's plan, however.
Boehner struck a conciliatory note in his announcement statement. "This joint committee presents an opportunity for both parties to bring to the table their best ideas, debate them on the merits and, ultimately, come together to do what's best for our country," he said. "With all that's at stake, I expect that the joint select committee will conduct its work in the open and transparent manner the American people deserve."
Several attempts at reaching a grand bargain on the deficit have blown up over the House GOP's insistence on not increasing revenue. Reid last week warned that the committee would not produce a bill unless Republicans agreed to revenue.
Failure to produce an agreement would trigger an automatic $1.2 trillion cut in defense spending, Medicare and other programs starting Jan. 1, 2013 — the same date the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts expire.