Supercommittee taps longtime Republican aide as staff director

The congressional debt supercommittee is continuing to take shape, as the Republican and Democratic leaders of the panel have selected a longtime GOP staffer as its staff director.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), who serve as the committees co-chairmen, announced Tuesday that Mark Prater will serve as staff director for the panel. Prater currently is the deputy staff director and chief tax counsel for Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee.

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In a joint statement, Murray and Hensarling praised Prater for his know-how and experience.

Mark has a well-earned reputation for being a workhorse who members of both parties have relied on, they said. We look forward to working with him and are confident that his approach and expertise will be valuable as we weigh the difficult but necessary choices ahead.

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Prater has been with the Finance Committee since 1990 and has been involved with every tax bill since. He was elevated to chief Republican tax counsel in 1994. A native of Portland, Ore., Prater earned his bachelor’s degree from Portland State University in 1981. Later, he earned a law degree from Willamette University College of Law in Salem, Ore., and a Master of Laws degree in taxation from the University of Florida in 1987.

He also is a member of the Oregon and Washington state bars and is a certified public accountant in Washington state.

The supercommittee is charged with coming up with $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts by Nov. 23. If the group cannot specify at least $1.2 trillion in cuts, automatic cuts will be triggered to domestic and defense spending in 2013.

But many fiscal hawks, along with President Obama, are calling on the panel to exceed its mandate and strive for a grand bargain of at least $3 trillion in deficit cuts.

The supercommittee of 12 lawmakers will also have to deal with competing motives from both parties. Democrats hope to include some economic stimulus in whatever package emerges, while some Republicans want to see some regulatory rollback. The panel has six members from each party and six members from each chamber of Congress.