WTF is a Supercommittee and who is likely to get appointed? (updated)

We’ve had a catfood commission and a gang of six.  Both groups basically had such essential differences that nothing ever came of their recommendations and nothing resembling a consensus appeared.  How is some congressional mandate handed over to a “supercommittee” going to be any different?  I see no reason for the Republicans to not continue the gridlock.  However, I did want to find out more.  So, here’s what I found.

It seems obvious to me that the supercommittee has been given a mandate to do things that no single congress critter wants on his record.  They are there to cut extremely popular programs.  I personally wonder if they will give cover to Republicans that signed on to Grover Norquist’s no tax pledge for reasonable changes in revenue policies as well.  I found a reasonably short explanation of their mandate on the PR&P Tax Update Blog.

The Act reduces spending by $0.9 trillion over the next 10 years and creates a 12-member, bi-partisan joint “super” committee charged with making recommendations to cut an additional $1.5 trillion from the deficit over 10 years.  The committee may recommend any combination of spending cuts or tax increases.  If legislation is not enacted by January 15, 2012 to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, then any shortfall must be taken equally out of defense and social spending by January 1, 2013.  This latter provision is so distasteful to each political party that it is seen as the vehicle to force through an agreement from the super committee.

Super committee appointments are to be made by August 16, 2011 with the first meeting held no later than September 16, 2011.  The committee must vote on their conclusions no later than November 23, 2011.  If a majority votes in favor, then legislative language must be reported out no later then December 2, 2011.  Both the House and the Senate must vote on the proposal by December 23, 2011 with no amendments considered.  The committee may rely on previous proposals to reform spending and taxation due to the time constraint it must work under.

There is an incredible amount of speculation on possible appointments to the supercommittee.  This is Politico’s best guess for the Senate appointees.  They have their guesses for the House appointees as well as a list of ‘dark horses’.

The major contenders to be selected by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.):

• Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) – Finance Committee chairman has jurisdiction over entitlement programs and he served on the Simpson-Bowles commission. The Huffington Post, however, reported on Monday that Baucus is unlikely to be tapped.

• Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) – Reid deputy is a Gang of Six member who also served on Simpson-Bowles.

• Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) – Appropriations Committee chairman participated in the Biden talks.

• Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) – Schumer is a Reid ally who would not let Democrats get rolled in the negotiations.

The major contenders to be selected by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.):

• Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) – Member of leadership team who throws sharp elbows on 2010 healthcare law.

• Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) – Ranking member of Finance Committee told The Hill, “I can live with [being appointed] or live without it.” Some point out that Hatch, who could face a primary challenge next year, will not be keen on finding common ground with Democrats.

• Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) – McConnell’s deputy participated in the Biden talks and is not seeking reelection.

• Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – Portman, a budget director in George W. Bush’s administration, has been mentioned a lot in recent days. The former House Ways and Means Committee member is widely respected on both sides of the aisle.

Sam Stein at HuffPo writes  that Conrad and Baucus will not make the cut.  Obama mentioned that the White House will be involved in the process of what the supercommittee does but he did not mention how that will happen.

To whom he will be submitting the plan remains the major mystery. But over the weekend, information about potential committee members began to leak from Capitol Hill. According to multiple Democratic sources, Senate Democratic leaders are winnowing down the names on the short list and they are leaning strongly against including some of the party’s most notable budget hawks.

Two senators, in particular, were said to be unlikely to end up on the committee: Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who chairs the Finance Committee, and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), who chairs the Budget Committee.

Final decisions have not yet been made, two aides cautioned. But two other Democratic aides with knowledge of deliberations said they would be very surprised if either ended up on the final list.

“The committee is built for failure — everyone will either stack it with loyalists to leadership and the caucuses or with partisan firebrands to make sure those folks defend key priorities,” said one of those aides. “If they don’t, they will immediately regret it. You need grown-up smart pros that know the issues, know the caucus position and will not waver.”

It appears that Conrad himself does not expect to make the cut. On Aug. 1, the night before the debt ceiling deal was signed, a reporter told him that a few people had floated his name as a super committee member. “I’m sure it’s a very few,” the senator responded.

The exclusion of Conrad and Baucus could have major implications for the committee’s tenor and the actions it will ultimately take. During the debt ceiling debate, Conrad pushed far-reaching deficit reduction proposals that included entitlement and tax reform and called for one dollar in spending cuts for every dollar in tax revenue raised. Baucus is more protective of entitlements but enjoys close ties to the financial service industry. Both are considered senior statesmen among Democrats on debt related negotiations. They are also distrusted by the party base, primarily because of their long records as fiscal hawks.

There are many concerns that people have expressed with the formation of this group.  One of the major issues is transparency.

Transparency concerns: Some groups have expressed concern that the joint committee will have an extremely powerful role in shaping policy, but may not be subject to the same transparency obligations as other congressional committees. “Right now, the creation of the committee doesn’t come with many requirements for transparency,” noted the Project on Government Oversight.

In a letter to Congressional leadership Aug. 3, the Sunlight Foundation recommended the joint committee include on its website:

  • Live webcasts of all official meetings and hearings,
  • the Committee’s report should be posted for 72 hours before a final committee vote,
  • disclosure of every meeting held with lobbyists and other powerful interests,
  • disclosure of campaign contributions as they are received (on their campaign website), and
  • financial disclosures of Committee members and staffers.
CBS News speculates that the downgrade of US debt by S&P will put even more pressure on the members of the supercommittee,

The downgrade creates “a sense of urgency for the two parties to come together,” Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla. told the Times, adding that the possibility of a further downgrade “scares” him. Added Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, “Anything that encourages the new committee to get the job done and get us back on a rational fiscal path is a good thing.”

At least some lawmakers called on Congress to return from its August recess to take up more deficit-reduction legislation.

“I sent a letter today to Leader Cantor requesting we come back to DC to resolve our deficit and spending issues. We should be in session!” Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., tweeted. West, a Tea Party-aligned House member, gained attention for his early support of the debt deal Republican leaders agreed to with President Obama.

Similarly, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said in a statement that “Congress should immediately reconvene to take up the fundamental reforms necessary to right the ship and lay the groundwork for a more stable and secure future for our children and grandchildren.”

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said on CBS’ “The Early Show” Monday that “there’s going to be incredible pressure on this commission now to come up with $1.5 trillion worth of deficit cuts,” but he expressed skepticism they’d get the job done. “Do you think if Democrats appoint their six most liberal members and Republicans appoint their six most conservatives that this committee will get anything done?” He said that the two parties should at least be able to support defense spending cuts. As Frank noted, there’s reason to believe the partisan fighting that S&P cited in its downgrade will continue in the supercommittee.

There are undoubtedly many things that will come up in this committee that will impact the future course of US policy.  It is odd to think that 6 committee members from each party will hold so much power.  It is even odder to think that the committee is evenly stacked instead of representing some kind of percentage that is representative of congress now.  This equates a minority power with the majority.  I personally find that very odd and undemocratic.
UPDATE:  Harry Reids picks are place as of this afternoon.

In the first of what will be a closely watched selection process for a powerful new deficit panel, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced he will appoint Democratic Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Max Baucus (Mont.) and John Kerry (Mass.) as his three choices for a super committee charged with finding more than $1 trillion in spending cuts by the end of this year.

Murray will serve as co-chair of the 12-member panel. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will select her co-chair and two other panelists, as required by the next debt limit agreement signed into law by President Barack Obama last week. Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell will each select three additional members.

34 Comments on “WTF is a Supercommittee and who is likely to get appointed? (updated)”

  1. joanelle says:

    thanks for this Dak – every little bit of information helps me better understand what’s going on – I may not like it but I’ll understand it 😕

    • The Rock says:

      I join Joanelle in thanking you, Dak. I’m not bright enough to grasp complex economic issues (according to my econ prof in college) but I understand you.

      Super committee appointments are to be made by August 16, 2011 with the first meeting held no later than September 16, 2011. The committee must vote on their conclusions no later than November 23, 2011. If a majority votes in favor, then legislative language must be reported out no later then December 2, 2011. Both the House and the Senate must vote on the proposal by December 23, 2011 with no amendments considered. The committee may rely on previous proposals to reform spending and taxation due to the time constraint it must work under.

      This seems to be the most important piece of the puzzle. They put time triggers that I really believe they want to execute. Defence spending won’t get cut because no one wants to be seen as not supporting the troops. They can always find cost reductions in the current war fighting budget, and later go back and pass a supplemental to fund whatever wasn’t funded as a result of the reduction.

      We are sooooooo f^&*’d

      Hillary 2012

      • Minkoff Minx says:

        I agree with you there Rock…we are totally screwed!

        Starting at :45…

        Suddenly, the Geologist bursts into the room.

        Mayor! We have got A VERY BIG PROBLEM!
        Mount Evanston is about to erupt!

        What does this mean to the town?

        The Geologist takes out another chart. It is very simple.

        Well this graph shows everything
        from normal to bad. Right now, South
        Park is here:

        He points with the pointer to ‘Totally Screwed’. The Mayor
        stands up.

        My God…

      • The Rock says:

        LMBAO!! Great (and timely) clip Minx! You know what was funny about that clip? After hearing that the city is facing a huge issue, the mayor answers by trying to readjust her message and her image (Ted – Call Entertainment Tonight AND my stylist). I think there is someone in real life that does that but I forget his name. Oh well, it will come to me soon enough.


        Hillary 2012

    • The Rock says:

      BTW – The Dow is off 1.5% after a morning of gains. Nasdaq is off 0.34%. Great job Congress and the Prez!


      Hillary 2012

      • dakinikat says:

        from CNN breaking news:

        The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it plans to keep interest rates “exceptionally low” until at least 2013 and acknowledged that the economic recovery is slowing.

        The Federal Reserve has kept the federal funds rate near zero for an extended period is to help stimulate the economy. That rate is the central bank’s key tool used to spur the economy.

        The Fed said growth is “considerably slower” than expected.

        Looks like the fed smells the coffee too.

      • The Rock says:

        That must have brought some confidence back to the marketplace because the Dow and Nasdaq are both up significantly in late afternoon trading….

        Hillary 2012

      • propertius says:

        Looks like the fed smells the coffee too.

        I took the Fed’s action as a statement from Bernanke that, no matter how stupid and ignorant Congress and the President were, the Fed was composed of people who had actually read an Econ book and they wouldn’t do anything egregiously dumb (like raise rates in the middle of a recession).

        Ben may not have been the best Fed chairman in history, but at least he’s not an idiot.

  2. Delphyne says:

    It is not representative government. It is not government by the people, for the people and of the people. If you congress critters don’t want these kinds of things on their record, then get the fuck out of congress, you cowards. Your job is to represent the people and not special interests. Right now, almost everyone of you is derelict in your duty to the people and to the Constitution, including the POTUS.

    I hate these folks – I get agita thinking about this. I’d better scrub the pots from last night’s dinner to diffuse some of this anger.

  3. Linda says:

    What is their advantage in Congress if they are NOT appointed, and can spend their time, and accrue support elsewhere?

    Why is there no rhetoric from any talking head regarding the erupting financial St Helens that is the cost of the wars?

    Why, yet again, were the cost of the wars excluded from the Budget?

    Only PBS and only one documentary in all this time?

    Are we Americans such cowards that we can’t be told the truth? Apparently they, our politicians, would rather us fight over dying smelt in the stream, then look at the ash cloud overhead.

    Someone always wins a war; who are the biggest winners?

  4. Jadzia says:

    I also note that all 8 of these folks are dudes. And 7 out of those 8 dudes are white. I’m just sayin’. We can put it in the “news that comes as no surprise” file.

  5. Allison says:

    Excellent point that an evenly stacked committee doesn’t represent the make-up of a duly-elected Congress. The whole thing is very undemocratic.

  6. fiscalliberal says:

    Dak – any thoughts on the FED holding near zero rates for two years. One reason could be they think the economy is further in the tank than the public does. The other might be that the banks have a lot of toxic assets that need to be worked off. I had hoped they stimulate a little inflation to kick start economy. I do not think we can expect Obama or the congress to do any further fiscal stimulation. I think they have to some how stimulate agregate demand to get jobs going

    I recall Bernanke telling Freidman that he was right about the depression. Looks like we art going to be able to update the economics books about monetary stimulation

    • dakinikat says:

      Monetary policy is pretty toothless under this situation. We’re in a liquidity trap for all intents and purposes. Interest rates are low but no body is borrowing because of job insecurity and demand insecurity. This financial crisis has led to a major rebalancing of balance sheets. It’s not going to end until unemployment is down and customers reappear.

      • propertius says:

        I think Bernanke realizes that while he doesn’t have the tools to make things better in the face of inept (corrupt?) fiscal policy, at the very least he can refrain from making things worse.

  7. bostonboomer says:

    IMHO, the reason Baucus and Conrad are not going to get on the committee is that, although they are budget hawks, they both refused to support cuts in Social Security and Medicare–Baucus on the Catfood Commissiion and Conrad in the Gang of Six. Both parties–and particularly Obama–want those cuts. Only members who will go along will make the committee. Durbin and Schumer are already on board with the cuts to the safety net.

  8. propertius says:

    FWIW, I think the downgrade was a passably brilliant piece of strategy on the part of S&P – they’ve effectively made it impossible for anyone to investigate them over the rating of MBSes without it looking like a political reprisal.

  9. northwestrain says:

    And the Constitution is T.P.

  10. northwestrain says:

    FireDogLake — has an update

    Via everywhere, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has chosen Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) for the Super Congress, the bipartisan committee charged with finding at least $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years. They will make up 1/4 of the 12-member committee: the other Majority and Minority Leaders in each chamber of Congress will chose the other nine.

    Murray is a conservative — in other states she’d be a Republican.

    • madamab says:

      No, Northwest, not true.

      Murray, who is chairwoman of the committee to elect Democratic senators, is a longtime protector of Democratic priorities such as Medicare, Social Security and veterans’ benefits, as are Kerry and Baucus.

      So I don’t get this. What is the point of this unConstitutional craziness if the Dems are going to protect Social Security?

      Oh, I get it. The next three picks will be anti-“entitlement” conservatives.

      • northwestrain says:

        I hope you are correct — madamab. I just don’t like nor trust her.

        There is no dem party in my state — 0bowma bought the party in 08. People voted for primary system — the dems ignored the vote and held a caucus.

      • northwestrain says:

        in my opinion anyone on that committee is a traitor — all should refuse and demand that the Constitution not be tossed out like used tp.

  11. Sima says:

    Murray’s too conservative for my taste, but she’s been a staunch lefty on many issues. She’s just too business oriented, as is every other damn congresscritter out there. After all, business is the hand that feeds them.

    This headline today worries me:
    ‘Murray: All is on table in debt supercommittee’

    No, all is NOT on the table. You keep your grubby dirty hands off my social security and my medicare and medicaid! Go raid some rich person’s savings account, not mine!

  12. paper doll says:

    Murray will do as she’s told…why she’s on there

    northwestrain says:

    August 9, 2011 at 7:32 pm in my opinion anyone on that committee is a traitor — all should refuse and demand that the Constitution not be tossed out like used tp.

    I agree . They are making the US Government into a lava lamp…which can be manipulated and shape changed at will .

    These hack panels use to be the blue ribbon do nothing hack panels. Now they are part of our government??