Congress will be adjourning for their annual August recess and many members will have an unusually heavy schedule as they make the rounds to explain their vote on the debt ceiling. But before they go, some will be making one last call or sending a final email to their respective leader suggesting why they are the perfect choice for what is being termed the “super committee.”
Forget about Ways and Means, Armed Services or the coveted Intelligence Committee in the Senate. The “super committee” is what everyone is predicting to be the most powerful group of elected officials in the world.
Under the agreement passed by Congress and signed by the president on Tuesday, a committee of 12 members, six members each from the House and the Senate, divided equally between Republicans and Democrats, will be created to recommend budget reductions upwards of $1.5 trillion. The reductions can come from spending cuts, tax increases or a combination of both. Regardless of who is chosen to sit on the committee, pundits will be watching to see how the process unfolds.
In a Wednesday interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said he’s been on the receiving end of most of the calls from House members.
“The Speaker is the one who makes the selection, and I have gotten a lot of calls and emails from members who want to serve and want to participate in solving the problem,” said Cantor.
As evident from his tone during budget negotiations, reducing spending will be a primary objective for any representing the GOP House caucus.
“I think the focus needs to stay on spending, this select committee has been tasked with the job of trying to identify those cuts,” Cantor said in his interview. “The House won’t support increasing taxes.”
Among House Republicans who have demonstrated their support for fiscal constraint, Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.) could be potential appointees.
House Democrats would prefer members who are willing to promote tax increases on high-end wage earners and protect entitlement programs. Making the case for moderate Democrats on the committee is Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) who heads the Blue Dog Coalition’s fiscal task force.
“It’s absolutely essential that some of the members of this committee be moderates,” Schrader told Bloomberg.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) weighed in on his choice on Tuesday in an interview with Neil Cavuto on Fox News.
“I’m not making the decisions but one of my candidates would be [Sen.] Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former head of the OMB. A very sober, knowledgeable person, I think, those are the kind of people that are going to be on this committee,” said McCain.
One Senator has already taken his name out of consideration for the coveted spot. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was one of the 26 Senators who voted against the debit limit plan on Tuesday.
“They’re not going to [ask], and if I voted for it and they asked me to, I still wouldn’t serve on it,” Nelson said in a radio interview on KLIN News Talk.
Nelson was also critical of the committee’s formation and predicted members will end up in gridlock, as partisan wrangling would shadow the committee’s purpose.
“I don’t think we can take politics out of every difficult decision,” said Nelson. “I don’t like to cede away or give away my responsibility, and certainly I don’t like to authorize a group of my colleagues to do what I was sent to Washington to do.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) reassured conservatives on Tuesday that he would impose no litmus test on appointees to the committee.
“There is no vote position requirement to serve on the committee,” according to a statement issues by a McConnell spokesman, adding that the Leader “will have serious discussions with all those who are interested in serving prior to making any appointments.”
But those most concerned about potential appointments are lobbyists who occupy offices on K Street. Several lobbyist reported they are increasing campaign donations and planning on “wearing out a lot of shoe leather” in the next few months.