The Ticket

The ‘super committee’ is complete

Chris Moody, Yahoo News
The Ticket

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John Boehner and Nancy Pelosi (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi unveiled her choices for the "super committee" Thursday, filling the final seats of the powerful panel with legislators who are almost sure to insist on revenue increases in the final deal to tamp down the nation's debt crisis.

Reps. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Xavier Becerra of California will represent House Democrats in the 12-member bipartisan, bicameral group responsible for crafting a plan for $1.5 trillion in debt reduction over 10 years.

"We must achieve a 'grand bargain' that reduces the deficit by addressing our entire budget, while strengthening Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security," Pelosi said in a statement.

Clyburn and Van Hollen are familiar with the overall task at hand. They were involved in Vice President Joe Biden's debt-reduction negotiations, which fell apart earlier this year. Becerra has long been a fierce opponent of cuts to Social Security and Medicare, which could be on the chopping block during the super committee talks.

The committee is stocked with a range of Capitol Hill characters--although some argue not diverse enough in race and gender--including veteran compromisers and staunch ideologues.

Here's a rundown of the rest of the committee:

House Republicans

Republicans leaders picked six members who have pledged never to support tax increases of any kind, which will no doubt complicate the path to any sustainable accord.

On the House side, Speaker John Boehner chose Reps. Dave Camp of Michigan, Jeb Hensarling of Texas, and Fred Upton of Michigan.

Of those three, Democrats will likely look to Upton, a Republican with a moderate record, as a possible GOP ally on a bargain that includes revenue increases. Last year, a coalition of right-leaning groups launched an unsuccessful campaign to keep Upton, who has a prickly relationship with conservatives, from chairing the House Energy committee.

Hensarling, now one of Boehner's deputies on the GOP leadership team, formerly chaired the Republican Study Committee, a coalition of more than 175 conservative members of the House. His presence will provide some relief to conservatives who may be worried about Upton.

And Camp, as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, is the head tax-law writer in the chamber, and therefore an obvious pick for the group.

Senate Democrats

Of Majority Leader Harry Reid's picks for the committee--Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Max Baucus of Montana, and Patty Murray of Washington--Kerry and Baucus will likely be the ones to strike a final deal.

The 2004 Democratic presidential nominee has proven himself a force for compromise in the Senate, and his voting record over the years, while liberal, doesn't paint the picture of a rigid ideologue. Most recently, Kerry has insisted repeatedly on the need to reform the way the government pays for Social Security and Medicare, a call that has raised alarm bells among liberal groups.

He's joined by Baucus, also a known dealmaker. Baucus was one of the lead writers of the Democratic health care overhaul, and helped see it through, compromise by compromise, to passage. "I care about results, and to get results, you have to work together and truly compromise," Baucus has said.

Murray, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, will likely serve as the stalwart Senate liberal.

Senate Republicans

Like Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell chose to pursue a blend of veteran deal makers and ideological purists--although McConnell has signaled several times that the GOP will not agree to any revenue increases and will pursue changes to Social Security and Medicare.

"My main criteria for selecting members was to identify serious, constructive senators who are interested in achieving a result that helps to get our nation's fiscal house in order," McConnell has said. "That means reforming entitlement programs that are the biggest drivers of our debt, and reforming the tax code in a way that makes us more competitive and leads to more American jobs."

Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl is the eldest of McConnell's picks. He serves as minority whip, and represented Senate Republicans during the Biden talks.

McConnell put two freshmen on the panel, Oregon Sen. Rob Portman, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, former president of the Club for Growth, an activist organization known for pummeling Republican lawmakers who vote for higher taxes and increased spending. Toomey is the only Republican pick to vote against the debt ceiling compromise passed last week.

The Way Forward

The group of 12 has until Thanksgiving to agree to a plan and Congress will have until Dec. 23 to accept or reject it. If nothing is agreed to, an automatic "trigger" will set in and make drastic cuts across the board.

The super committee only requires a majority vote to pass the proposal onto Congress by the Nov. 23 deadline. The question remains: Will Republicans convince just one Democrat to join them in support of a plan that keeps taxes at their current rates and reforms entitlements or will Democrats successfully woo one Republican toward raising tax revenues?

Of course, the outcome may not be that stark. Over the coming months, we'll learn whether this group will be able to work together, or if it will become mired in stalemate--as is the fate of many other working groups in Washington.

You can watch a report on how the super committee is supposed to function, courtesy of ABC's "Nightline," below:

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