Boehner, McConnell announce picks for deficit ‘supercommittee’

The GOP has announced its picks for the powerful “supercommittee” established to find $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) appointed Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and House Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) to serve on the panel. Hensarling will serve as co-chairman.

{mosads}”The lawmakers I have appointed to serve on this joint committee are proven leaders who have earned the trust and confidence of their colleagues and constituents,” Boehner said. “They understand the gravity of our debt crisis, and I appreciate their willingness to serve on this panel.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appointed his deputy, Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a Budget director in the George W. Bush administration, and Tea Party favorite Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).

“All three of these nominees understand the gravity of our situation and all three will bring the kind of responsibility, creativity, and thoughtfulness that the moment requires,” McConnell said. “The American people know that we cannot dig ourselves out of this situation by nibbling around the edges, and I am confident that each of these nominees can be counted on to propose solutions that put the interests of all Americans ahead of any one political party.”

The two leaders took slightly different approaches to their selections. While McConnell appointed two freshman senators — Portman and Toomey — Boehner did not pick any members of the House GOP’s freshman class, opting instead to go with veteran lawmakers.  

Boehner did not select House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the party’s fiscal guru and author of the chamber’s controversial budget plan. Ryan said in a statement he had asked not to be chosen so that he could focus on the regular budget process.

The Speaker notably passed over House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who had called for a strong defense voice on the committee, given the automatic cuts to security spending that will result from a set trigger if the group fails to achieve its goals. 

Boehner said he believes the committee will operate transparently, as many members of Congress have insisted.

“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,” Boehner 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.”

The six conservative stalwarts picked for the supercommittee have all vowed to oppose tax increases, a fact that appears to make it less likely that the group will go beyond its mandate to find $1.5 trillion in deficit cuts. Of the group of six, Portman was most open to the deficit-cutting plan put forward by the bipartisan Senate Gang of Six that included revenue increases. 

Upton and Camp, the chairmen of the two House committees in charge of entitlements, vowed to work against overspending in statements after Boehner’s announcement. Neither mentioned federal revenues.

“This commission will not be able to solve the crisis in a matter of months, but we can work together to tackle these challenges in order to bring back jobs, hope, and opportunity for the America people,” Hensarling said. 

Boehner and McConnell made their announcements one day after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appointed three liberal senators with close ties to leadership to the supercommittee. 

Reid appointed Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

In making his picks, Reid snubbed members of the Gang of Six who had been willing to cut entitlements in exchange for revenue increases.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is the only congressional leader who has yet to announce her appointments to the 12-member committee.

The supercommittee must be appointed by Aug. 16 and vote on a deficit-reduction plan by Nov. 23. That plan will receive an up-or-down vote by Christmas in both chambers if the committee succeeds in coming to a consensus.

In the wake of last week’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s, pressure has increased for the group to go beyond its mandate to find $1.5 trillion in cuts. S&P says the U.S. needs to come up with $4 trillion in deficit cuts in order to return the nation to a AAA credit rating. 

Camp thanked Boehner for choosing him, and said the committee must do its utmost to cut spending, especially in light of recent market turbulence.

{mosads}”Last Friday’s downgrade of our debt by S&P is a strong reminder of how important it is for this Committee to lead and focus on restoring confidence in America by further cutting out of control spending and reducing the deficit,” Camp said. “If we are successful in curbing the overspending in Washington that has sparked fear in the financial markets and created uncertainty on Main Street, we will start to see the job creation we desperately need.”

The evenly divided supercommittee can approve a plan by a simple majority of its 12 members. That means only one Republican or Democrat has to defect from their party’s opening position for its plan to come to a floor vote. 

Reid had promised to appoint open-minded members, while the House GOP vowed not to appoint anyone open to tax increases.

—Last updated at 12:45 p.m.

Tags Boehner Harry Reid John Boehner John Kerry Max Baucus Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Paul Ryan Rob Portman
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