Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday night was the first out of the gate with his selections of three Democratic senators to sit on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, which was part of the debt ceiling deal reached by President Barack Obama and Republican leaders.
Reid named to the committee Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash.; Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont.; and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced early on Wednesday his GOP picks for the committee, which are Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; and Reps. Dave Camp and Fred Upton, both of Michigan. Hensarling will co-chair the committee along with Murray.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also named on Wednesday his picks, which are Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.; Pat Toomey, R-Pa.; and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has until Tuesday, Aug. 16, to name three members to the panel. The bipartisan, bicameral committee will be comprised of 12 members—six from each Chamber and equally divided between Democrats and Republicans.
The committee is charged with developing legislation that provides $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction by Thanksgiving. Reid said in a statement announcing his nominations that the committee has been given “broad leeway” to examine all areas for deficit reduction, and that the committee’s legislation will be given “expedited consideration, with a guaranteed up-or-down vote in the Senate before Christmas.”
Obama said Monday, after the markets took a nosedive on news of Standard and Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt to AA+, that the solution to reducing the nation’s deficit is combining spending cuts with “tax reform and modest adjustments to healthcare programs like Medicare.” Friday’s downgrade news from S&P, he went on to say, will give the nation “a renewed sense of urgency,” to reduce the deficit. However, he said the current environment in Washington of refusing “to put what’s best for the country ahead of self-interest and ideaology must change.”
Reid said in the statement announcing his appointments that the Joint Select Committee “has been charged with forging the balanced, bipartisan approach to deficit reduction that the American people, the markets and rating agencies like Standard and Poor’s are demanding.” He said each of the three senators he appointed possess “an expertise in budget matters, a commitment to a balanced approach and a track record of forging bipartisan consensus.”
Boehner said in the statement announcing his selections that the nation’s “debt and deficits are a threat to our economy, and America cannot achieve long-term job growth until we take action to address this crisis.” In the weeks ahead, he said, “a serious, bipartisan committee of lawmakers will begin the hard but necessary work of making the tough choices needed to rein in mandatory and entitlement spending, which are the drivers of our debt.”
Murray, Baucus and Kerry issued a joint statement the same day in which they said that “while some will argue there is peril in serving on this committee, we believe there is far greater peril in leaving these issues unaddressed. It is long overdue to step beyond the partisanship and politics that have overwhelmed these discussions for months. The true danger lies in inaction.”
They conceded that while coming to agreement on deficit reduction measures “is not going to be easy, our challenge is to find common ground without damaging anyone’s principles. We believe we can get there.” This Committee, they went on to say, “was designed to require bipartisanship, and we are going to work hard with our Republican colleagues to attain it. We know Americans will stand by us if we work together to tackle our debt and deficit and help get our economy back on track.”