Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – Nev.) was the first to make his three appointments to the newly created and powerful 12 member deficit reduction panel Tuesday. Each party will pick three members from its caucus in each chamber; three from the Senate and three from the House of Representatives.
Reid appointed Democratic Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), Max Baucus of Montana, and John Kerry of Massachusetts.
According to Politico, Murray will serve as co-chair of the 12 member panel. Speaker John Boehner (R – Oh.) will select her co-chair as leader of Republicans in the House of Representatives. The other six panelists according to the debt limit agreement signed into law by President Barack Obama will be named by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D – Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R –Ky.).
They are charged by the bill to find more than $1 trillion in spending cuts by the end of this year.
Pundits who looked at Reid’s appointment said that while Murray was very partisan, as indicated by her role in the DSCC, Baucus was a moderate who could well find common ground to find an agreement to the nation’s every growing national debt.
Inasmuch as the committee of 12 is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, one vote could shift the majority in favor of either side. Baucus has been a moderate senator who has been willing to compromise on debt issue. Kerry – the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee – had been lobbying for a spot.
“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,” Reid said in a statement. “To achieve that goal, I have appointed three senators who each possess an expertise in budget matters, a commitment to a balanced approach and a track record of forging bipartisan consensus.”
According to Politico, Reid’s three picks are intended to show the Nevada Democrat is serious about forging a bipartisan deal to head off $1.2 trillion in spending cuts required under the debt deal.
The super committee was Reid’s contribution to the bipartisan agreement to end the debt limit fight.
Politico added that the other three leaders in the House and Senate have until next week to announce their picks for the closely watched panel, although Reid’s opening move is expected to speed up that process.
The membership will be crucial, since any deal that receives a majority support will be fast-tracked through the House and Senate for consideration before year’s end.
Reid and Pelosi had been considering whether to install candidates who will draw a hardline against deep entitlement cuts, particularly if Republicans don’t bend on new taxes. The Democratic leaders want loyalists who won’t give the panel majority support for a cuts-only approach, which could target popular programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The appointment of Baucus gave analysts hope that the new committee might be open to a bi-partisan solution to the problem. It now depends on who Pelosi, McConnell and Boehner pick.