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Reid Names Kerry, Baucus, Murray to Deficit "Super-Committee"

Reid Names Kerry, Baucus, Murray to Deficit "Super-Committee"

By Alexis Simendinger - August 9, 2011

It is not all that surprising that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's selections to represent Democrats on the deficit-cutting "super-committee" will be Sens. John Kerry, Max Baucus and Patty Murray.

Not the gang you imagined? Some senators didn't want to get near the 12-member panel, whose members are to be announced by both parties in both chambers by Aug. 16.

But Reid's logic is this: Kerry, as the Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, wants to lead, and he has worked across the aisle on military and international policies. He tried for months in the last Congress to broker a bipartisan deal on climate change, initially with Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman as his partners. They did not find momentum before the midterms, but Reid deputized Kerry because California liberal Sen. Barbara Boxer was not a dealmaker with Republicans on the sprawling climate-change bill.

Montana's Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee, knows taxes, Medicare and health care. Sometimes infuriatingly centrist in the eyes of his caucus colleagues, he nonetheless has worked constructively with Republicans, including Iowa's Chuck Grassley, the ranking member on Finance. Baucus and Grassley have traded turns at chairing the committee long enough to finish each other's sentences. And they endured 18 months of agony before the Senate narrowly passed a health reform bill -- which Grassley ultimately opposed.

If Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell selects Grassley to join the super-committee, Baucus and Grassley could get tax "reform" into the conversation with ample expertise.

Murray, a member of Reid's leadership team and tapped to be the super-committee’s co-chair (along with House Speaker John Boehner's designee to lead the panel), has been described by Senate aides as being "like a sister" to the Nevada majority leader. She is patient, a skilled listener, loyal to Reid, and she never misses an opportunity to inject the real-world needs of families, children and the elderly, as well as the worries of small businesses she knows in Washington state, into policy debates.

The panel, with appointments still to be made by Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, will be tasked to identify approximately $1.5 trillion in fiscal changes over 10 years by a Nov. 23 deadline. Their proposals, if there is agreement among the 12, are to be voted up or down by Dec. 23. If Congress cannot agree, the recently enacted debt ceiling pact calls for across-the-board cuts that could mow through discretionary, military and entitlement programs.

Democrats have vowed to add revenue changes to the mix, and Republicans say they will block any tax increases. President Obama, who has no presence on the panel, has said he will offer his ideas in the "coming weeks." 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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