Mark Prater, who grew up in Oregon, graduated from Portland State University, took his law degree from Willamette University and worked for former Oregon Senator Bob Packwood, was named today as staff director for the high-visibility House and Senate committee tasked with chopping billions off the federal deficit.
Prater is deputy staff director and chief tax counsel for Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee. He was chosen for his new assignment by Washington Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling, a Republican. The co-chairs cited his reputation for hard work and cutting deals.
However, Prater may have been chosen because he is one of the few people on Capitol Hill able to gain trust on the full spectrum of political ideology. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, called Prater an "honest broker who has garnered the respect and admiration from both sides of the aisle.
Some Democrats grumbled at the choice, but others noted Prater was involved in major budget deals in 1990 and 1997 and reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 2007. "If anyone knows how to create a fair, balanced solution that can make everyone a winner in a difficult situation like this, it's Mark Prater," said one Democratic aide.
Packwood told The Oregonian's Jeff Mapes that Prater's selection was a "four-star appointment."
The 12-member Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, know as the supercommmittee, faces the daunting challenge of reaching a huge budget deal by Thanksgiving, so Congress can vote by the end of the year.
The supercommittee hasn't met officially yet, but members have been reviewing various bipartisan proposals to reduce the deficit.
Some members of Congress hope the appointment of Prater, who has a strong tax background, signals a serious start on federal tax reform, which could be the element that galvanizes a larger compromise.