NEW YORK (MainStreet) – When Congress finally got around to cutting a deal to raise the debt ceiling, it came with a unique provision: A second round of spending cuts, totaling $1.5 trillion, would be decided not by Congress but by a small group of legislators appointed by party leaders. This new bipartisan “supercommittee” will consist of a half-dozen congressmen from each house, split evenly among party lines.
If the committee fails to reach a budget agreement, $500 billion will automatically be cut from the Pentagon’s budget to meet the savings target, a politically distasteful outcome that should hopefully prompt them to work together.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi chose the final three members to sit on the committee Thursday, rounding out the group of 12 that will fight the next battle over the nation’s debt. Here’s a quick look at the 12 angry men and women who will hopefully do a better than Congress as a whole has in addressing the country’s budget problems.
At first glance, it looks like both sides have chosen a diverse group of legislators that appeal to all elements of their parties, meaning they may indeed be able to get their colleagues behind the plan they come up with, if they are able to agree in the end.
Sen. John Kerry (D–Mass.)
Now the senior senator from Massachusetts, the one-time presidential candidate is perhaps better known for his stature in the realm of foreign policy than domestic budget issues. Kerry is not without budgetary credentials, however, sitting on the small business and finance committees. He voted against the original Bush tax cuts, but showed a willingness to compromise in December when he agreed to a deal to extend the cuts in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
Something of a wild card, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has a reputation for being willing to reach across the aisle as a member of the more conservative “blue dog” wing of the Democratic Party. He previously served on President Obama’s bipartisan deficit-reduction commission, and he has said that any deal must include increased tax revenue, which is sure to be a significant sticking point for the Republicans on the committee.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)
As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is an oddly political choice for a committee meant to be reaching across the aisle. At the same time, the choice has also drawn criticism from liberal groups who feel that she should cease fundraising activities while on the committee, over concerns that such dual roles could give special interests an undue influence over the proceedings.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.)
The South Carolina congressman is an assistant Democratic House leader and a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He is considered one of the more liberal Democrats in the House, and previously served on Joe Biden’s deficit working group.
Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.)
Another liberal Democrat, Becerra was one of just two members of the supercommittee to have voted against the deal to raise the debt ceiling. At the time he criticized the deal for not raising taxes on the rich or addressing the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and he also expressed concern for the future of Medicare and Social Security. It’s hard to believe that he’ll be a big compromiser on the super committee, as he is perhaps the most liberal of the Democrats chosen for the job.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)
Van Hollen previously served as his party’s chief fundraiser, and he’s now the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Like Clyburn he was part of Biden’s deficit working group, and like most Democrats he’s opposed to entitlement cuts and wants to see increased tax revenues.