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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

GOP Selects 6 Staunch, Anti-Tax Increase Members For Super Committe: Stalemate Guaranteed!

Republicans name fiscal conservatives to debt committee

Republican leaders on Wednesday named fiscal conservatives for their six picks for a new congressional "super" committee charged with crafting a plan to cut the country's deficit.

In separate announcements, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filled out the GOP spots on the 12-member bipartisan panel created in last week's debt ceiling deal that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama.

Boehner, R-Ohio, chose Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, Dave Camp of Michigan and Fred Upton of Michigan, while McConnell, R-Kentucky, picked Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.

All six are known for conservative stances on economic issues. Hensarling is the Republican Conference chairman and will be co-chair of the so-called "super" committee with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, who was appointed Tuesday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"The debt crisis is a legitimate threat to our nation's future, and the American people cannot afford to wait any longer," Hensarling said in a statement after his appointment. "Everyone can agree that we must stop spending money we don't have, and the time to act is now."

He added that the committee "will not be able to solve the crisis in a matter of months, but we can work together to tackle these challenges in order to bring back jobs, hope, and opportunity for the American people."

The committee will follow up on negotiations that started last year with the bipartisan debt commission appointed by Obama, then continued in Congress including work by the so-called "Gang of Six" senators -- three Democrats and three Republicans. Both debt commission and the Gang of Six recommended comprehensive packages that included tax reform, changes to politically sensitive entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and spending cuts.

Former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who co-chaired Obama's debt commission, told CNN on Wednesday that the new special committee has plenty of information to work with and shouldn't need a lot of time for further collecting or analyzing of issues.

Committee members "don't need to sit around here and gather more information," Simpson said, adding that the actual negotiating is "going to be tough."

Among the choices announced Wednesday, Camp is the House Ways and Means Committee chairman, while Upton chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Upton has taken some moderate positions in the past, including attempts to decrease tax cuts in the George W. Bush administration that remain contentious today.

In a statement Wednesday, Upton said "much more needs to be done to bring down health care costs, promote economic growth, and begin to tame runaway government."

"No one believes this is going to be easy," he added.

On the Senate side, Kyl is the No. 2 Republican behind McConnell, while Portman is a former White House budget director in the Bush administration. Toomey, who joined the Senate in January, sits on the Senate Budget and Banking committees. Kyl is a staunch advocate for the military, which is targeted for deep spending cuts if the special committee fails to come up with an agreement that passes Congress by the end of the year.

A day earlier, Reid appointed Murray, Max Baucus of Montana and John Kerry of Massachusetts with his three Senate Democrat picks.

In a joint statement after their appointments, the three Democratic senators said that Americans want the committee to operate without "the red hot partisanship and brinkmanship of the last months."

"This is not going to be easy. Our challenge is to find common ground without damaging anyone's principles. We believe we can get there. This committee was designed to require bipartisanship, and we are going to work hard with our Republican colleagues to attain it," their statement said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, has yet to announce her three House Democrat choices.

She has until August 16 to complete the committee that will have six Democrats and six Republicans, equally divided between the House and Senate.

The committee will try to work out $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, after an initial round of more than $900 billion in spending cuts in the debt ceiling agreement. It is required to complete its work by November 23, and Congress then has until December 23 to vote on the proposal, with no amendments permitted.

A simple majority on the panel -- seven of 12 members -- is needed to approve whatever package it comes up with, meaning that it will take a lone member of either party to push something through by voting with the other side. The committee's proposal would then need a simple majority in each chamber of Congress to make it to Obama's desk.

If the committee fails to reach agreement or Congress fails to pass whatever package it recommends, a trigger mechanism will enact further across-the-board cuts in government spending, including for the military.

According to a new CNN/ORC International Poll released Wednesday, 63% of respondents say the so-called "super committee" should recommend increased taxes on higher-income Americans and businesses, with 36% disagreeing. By a 57-40% margin, respondents say the committee's deficit reduction proposal should include major cuts in domestic spending.

However, further cuts in defense spending get a mixed review, with 47% favoring them and 53% opposed.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents oppose major changes to Social Security and Medicare, while nearly nine in 10 don't want any increase in taxes on middle class and lower-income Americans.

Months of rancorous negotiations on deficit reduction have failed to resolve a fundamental dispute between Republicans and Democrats involving the size of government and whether to raise revenue while cutting spending. Obama is pushing for a comprehensive plan that included spending cuts, increased tax revenue and entitlement reforms, while Republicans seek to shrink government by proposing spending cuts and entitlement reforms without increased revenue.

An impasse over the tax revenue issue led to the debt ceiling agreement, which imposed the initial round of spending cuts and set up the special committee to work out further deficit reduction. The agreement also enables the federal debt ceiling to be increased through 2012, allowing the government to borrow what it needs to meet its obligations.

The brinkmanship of the negotiations, with uncertainty over whether the government might default if no deal was reached, was one reason why Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+ on Friday.

One of the main Republican arguments against tax increases on the wealthy is that they would inhibit job creation. The poll results showed that only a third of respondents agree with that stance, while 62% say taxes on the wealthy should be high so the government can use the money for programs to help lower-income Americans.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from August 5-7, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey was conducted both before and after Friday night's announcement of the S&P downgrade. The poll's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

In announcing his choices for the special committee, Reid said in a statement that Murray would be a co-chair.

"As the events of the past week have made clear, the world is watching the work of this committee," Reid's statement said.

Late Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus slammed Reid's choice of Murray and asked the Senate leader to withdraw her appointment.

"Harry Reid's appointment of Patty Murray to co-chair the Select Committee on Deficit Reduction is absolute proof that Democrats are not serious about deficit reduction," Priebus said in a statement. "As chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Murray is the Senate Democrats' fundraiser-in-chief. The Select Committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics."

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Sources: ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Youtube, Google Maps

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