Why Democrats Lose The Super Committee Appointees

Robert Borosage

The debt ceiling agreement passed by Congress today sets up a 12-person "super committee" with extraordinary powers and the mandate to locate $1.5 trillion in spending cuts and/or increased revenues for expedited vote by December. The Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate will each appoint three people to the commission.

Since the Commission’s mandate is to target Social Security, Medicare and other entitlements as well as tax revenues, who gets appointed to the gang of 12 will be critical. The president says he will push for a “balanced plan,” but he gets no appointments.

If you care about Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid, be very worried. Consider the stated positions of the Senate leaders on appointees:

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell says that the super committee will “certainly deal with major entitlement reforms,” even as he reassured conservatives that they should not worry about tax hikes, telling a Fox News reporter that the likelihood of tax hikes coming out of the committee is “pretty low.”

“What I can pretty certainly say to the American people, the chances of any kind of tax increase passing with this, with the appointees of John Boehner and I, are going to put in there are pretty low,” said McConnell. He added: “I’m comfortable we aren’t going to raise taxes coming out of this joint committee.”He contrasts wth negotiating with the president, because the president insisted that entitlement reform be accompanied by “big taxes. That was a price we were not willing to pay.”

Meanwhile the Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid wants representatives who are open to all ideas. Reid told reporters Monday that he would select people who are willing to make hard choices but aren’t locked in.  “One of my friends asked me, he said, Harry, I’d like to be on that committee,” Reid said. ”But I think it doesn’t bode well for me to choose someone who the world knows how they feel about it before they go in there. I think we better look at other avenues.”

Boehner and McConnell are telling conservatives that they needn’t worry. Their appointees will be rock-solid conservatives, inalterably opposed to any new taxes. Reid is telling reporters that he wants appointees who “aren’t locked in.” A perfect recipe for another debacle.

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