By Russell Berman - 12/27/11 11:15 AM EST
REP. SANDY LEVIN (D-Mich.)
Levin is the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over most of the issues on the table. He is a particularly big booster of the unemployment insurance program, which Republicans want to reform as part of a longer extension of emergency benefits. Democrats including Levin have criticized the House GOP bill, which called for reducing the maximum number of weeks a person could receive benefits, to 59 from 99. That change was dropped from the short-term extension, but Republicans have vowed to press for it to be included in a yearlong bill. “Those differences have been expressed before, and they're significant ones that need to be worked out,” Levin told reporters Friday.
REP. HENRY WAXMAN (D-Calif.)
Waxman is the ranking member and former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, not to mention a close ally of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). He is a leading Democratic light on energy and environment issues and will be expected to fight to keep extraneous provisions targeting the Environmental Protection Agency out of any final deal. While Republicans won a concession on the Keystone pipeline in the two-month extension, they gave up, at least temporarily, a measure that would have delayed boiler mact regulations.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-Md.)
The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, Van Hollen has become Pelosi’s go-to negotiator in 2011. She appointed him to the debt-limit talks led by Vice President Biden, the deficit supercommittee and now the conference committee on the payroll tax cut. Yet while Van Hollen is a budget expert, his top priority on the conference committee might be to protect federal workers, many of whom are his Maryland constituents. When Senate Republicans first proposed to extend a federal employee pay freeze to offset the payroll tax cut, Van Hollen denounced it as “another cynical ploy to single out federal employees for unfair treatment.”
REP. XAVIER BECERRA (D-Calif.)
Becerra is a liberal stalwart who served on both the Simpson-Bowles commission and the supercommittee. He is also the vice chairman of the House Democratic Conference and can be expected to fight hard to protect Medicare from cuts and to push for higher taxes on the wealthy.
REP. ALLYSON SCHWARTZ (D-Pa.)
The fourth-term Pennsylvania Democrat is a leader in the push to overhaul the Medicare reimbursement rate for physicians, which is a key element of the yearlong tax package. Congressional leaders want a two-year fix to the so-called SGR, or sustainable growth rate formula. Schwartz told reporters Friday that her goal in the conference committee is a permanent repeal-and-replace of the SGR, but acknowledged, “It may be ambitious of me.” As with the other items, the big obstacle is how to pay for it. While physicians want a two-year fix, Congress might have to settle for one year if it can’t agree on offsetting spending cuts.