Analysis: Debt panel members represent broad differences in views on spending

In the current Congress, the panel members have legislative agendas whose net effect ranges from a yearly average reduction in the budget of $85 billion (Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.) to an annual increase in outlays of $1.157 trillion (Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif.). 

Becerra's total is primarily attributable to his cosponsorship of single-payer health care reform legislation. To fund the legislation, supporters of this bill have identified several tax increases – including surtaxes on the top two income brackets and higher payroll taxes.

The supercommittee’s recommendations must be reported out by Nov. 23 and voted up or down in the House and Senate by Dec. 23. 

Failure by the panel or Congress to move forward will trigger $1.2 trillion in automatic budget cuts in 2013.

Other findings of the analysis include that each House Republican has backed legislation would reduce federal spending between $41.3 billion by Rep. Fred Upton, Mich. and $43 billion proposed by Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas. 

However, these amounts are more moderate (by about one-third) than the net budget cut backed by the typical Member of their party in this Congress.

So far this year, none of the three House Democrats named to the panel (Beccera, Reps. James Clyburn (S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland) have sponsored or cosponsored a single bill whose net effect would shrink federal outlays. That's also true of a Senate Democrat Max Baucus of Montana. 

"These lawmakers’ agendas differ from the trend within their own parties," Brady said. "An average House Democrat has sponsored $10.9 billion in cuts (more than offset by increases), while the average Democratic Senator has backed $12.9 billion in reductions," he found. 

Overall, all panel members sponsored or cosponsored 18 non-overlapping bills with gross savings (not accounting for any spending-increase bills they supported) adding up to $89.6 billion a year. 

None of those bills have bipartisan support among the debt-panel members, but three of those proposals have been introduced in both chambers and have the backing of GOP lawmakers in both chambers on the panel. The savings of these three “common bills” are estimated at $41.3 billion, according to the analysis.

Although Senate and House Republicans on the panel might find agreement on the $41.3 billion spending reduction, its single biggest element involves repealing the healthcare law, a move that panel Democrats oppose.

Two Senate Democrats (John Kerry (Mass.) and Patty Murray of Washington) offered four spending reduction bills totaling $629 million in cuts. 

While no GOP lawmakers on the panel cosponsored these pieces of legislation, two of them – a suspension of next year’s Congressional salary increase and cutbacks on Congressional printing, worth $10 million in combined savings – have attracted bipartisan interest.

Based there seems to be little accord between panel members based on sponsored legislative, Brady noted that the combined legislative “raw material” of the entire membership in the 112th Congress would provide additional opportunities. 

BillTally’s database has recorded the introduction of non-overlapping spending cuts in the House of $357.2 billion a year, more than twice the average annualized total deficit reduction ($150 billion per year) the committee is charged with developing for consideration in the full House and Senate.

“If they are to avoid tax increases that many Americans would find counterproductive, pane members will need to meet deficit reduction targets through a variety of spending-restraint measures,” Brady concluded. “BillTally’s database from this and previous Congresses shows that there is no shortage of ideas to help achieve this end."