Patty Murray Named Super Committee Co-chair

Senator Patty Murray, D-Wash, has been named co-chair of the debit cutting “super committee.” Photo by Bread for the World.Nine of the 12 members of the deficit reduction “super committee” have been chosen. At the center of the storm will be Washington Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, who will serve as co-chair.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also appointed Senators John Kerry and Max Baucus, all tapped with the daunting responsibility to cut an additional $1.5 trillion in federal funding. The super committee is a result of the debt deal and will consist of a dozen members of Congress selected by Senate and House Leadership from both parties. Their task is to put forward a plan of approved spending cuts by November 23.

As co-chair of the super committee, Senator Murray will be thrust into the middle of the most contentious and impactful policy negotiations in decades. The formation of the super committee means spending cuts for all programs could be on the table, including Social Security, Medicare, tax reform, tax increases and any and all domestic policy items that have been stalled in Congress for years.

The committee’s final product could contain a series of domestic policy changes that could reverberate through to every facet of federal influence for generations. That's what makes this super committee so super. It's likely committee members will not just be cutting spending, but trading horses of all sizes and shapes.

As the Seattle Times notes, "In Murray, Reid chose a loyal lieutenant who's been a dogged advocate for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — entitlement programs that are front and center in the deficit debate. She's also led the Senate in pushing for more help for veterans." 

As expected, Republicans already are complaining about Murray's selection. From an article in today's Politico, "But the choice of Murray was already spawning anger from Republicans, who called it a blatantly political move aimed at filling up coffers for the Democratic campaign committee. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus called on Reid to withdraw the appointment immediately. “The Select Committee is no place for someone whose top priority is fundraising and politics,” Priebus said.

Senators Murray, Baucus, and Kerry have acknowledged the long road ahead and issued the following joint statement on their selection.

"This is an important moment for our country. Millions of Americans are struggling in this tough economy, working overtime to pay the bills, find a job, and find a way forward for their families, and they want this committee to force the federal government to make similar sacrifices without the red hot partisanship and brinkmanship of the last months.” 

With House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell announcing their selections earlier today, we are only waiting on House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi to select the final three members. The following six Republicans will join Murray, Baucus and Kerry on the panel: Senator Jon Kyl, Senator Patrick Toomey, Senator Rob Portman, Congressman Jeb Hensarling, Congressman Dave Camp, and Congressman Fred Upton.

Super Committee Process

By November 23, the Joint Committee must vote on language to achieve $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction covering 2012-2021. If they reach agreement with at least 7 votes they must make recommendations to the Congress and the President by December 2.

Should the super committee be successful in passing forward a plan to reduce spending, then Congress would have until December 23 to hold an up or down vote on the measure, with no amendments allowed. If Congress has not adopted the joint committee’s report to reduce the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion, “sequestration” (automatic spending cuts) of both defense and non-exempt domestic programs will occur as calculated by OMB and ordered by the President.

The exact percentage cuts will not be known until the time of the sequester calculations, because it will be based on the final FY 2012 spending levels. However, it is projected that the cut to defense spending will be around 8.4 percent and the cut to non-exempt, domestic programs (other than Medicare) will be around 6.7 percent.